He has struggled at designated hitter so far but that only makes Adam LaRoche want to embrace his new position even more.
Despite two days off to play first base in the absence of Jose Abreu, LaRoche is eager to improve as the White Sox DH. LaRoche -- who has hit five of six home runs this season while in the field -- has a .203/.338/.268 slash line and 11 RBIs in 148 plate appearances as the team’s DH. But rather than ask White Sox manager Robin Ventura to play him more often at first, LaRoche wants to improve at the spot on for which he signed.
“I enjoy it,” LaRoche said. “It’s different. It’s almost like a new challenge now because it has been a struggle. So now I want to do it even more just to prove to myself that I can figure this out.”
LaRoche knew he’d see more time at DH when he signed a two-year, $25-million deal with the White Sox in November. The club made it clear they wanted to keep Abreu in the field because he’s signed through 2019 and they believe he needs to keep playing to improve. Even though it’s a challenge, LaRoche understood it was coming.
“Somebody has to do it,” Ventura said. “And he knew that when he signed on, that was going to be his and that’s where he gets the mentality of he’s going to be able to handle it and do it. It’s a challenge for most guys that do it.”
Ventura said the key is to stay busy while in the dugout.
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“The biggest thing is to be occupied like you would be on the field, that your mind is occupied with what is going on in the game,” Ventura said. “When you stop watching the game and go in and do something else, your brain can go somewhere else. I’ve done it before and you try and stay engaged in the game like you would if you were playing in the field so you don’t feel as much like maybe you’re a third base coach, or you’re a guy in the video room and go back out and hit. You have to stay engaged.”
LaRoche stays busy by talking to his coaches and watching the game.
Depending on how he feels at the plate, LaRoche spends some game time in the indoor batting cages, having someone throw or flip or hitting off the pitching machine. He rarely watches video.
“For the most part just watching the game,” LaRoche said. “I think you see individual things you wouldn't see when you're out there consumed with the game. You just see little stuff and you're sitting next to the coaches half the time seeing their philosophies and different approaches. It's different.”
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One thing LaRoche has seen is that Abreu is a better defender than he expected. LaRoche praised Abreu for his soft hands and knows both need to be in the lineup for the White Sox to succeed. That’s why he’s so open to the challenge, though Ventura understands it’s always going to be difficult.
“Unless you’re just broken down and cant play in the field, there’s something physically wrong with you, not too many other guys just want to hit and not play the field,” Ventura said. “So it’s a challenge for Adam or anybody else on the team. And it is a position, and somebody has to do it.”