It’s hard to believe a hitter would find any comfort stepping in against Yordano Ventura and his 97 mph fastball. But at least he’s an American League pitcher that Adam LaRoche has already seen this season.
Even though he already has 5,901 plate appearances, LaRoche -- who prior to 2015 spent all but six games over his career in the National League -- has been running into a bunch of pitchers he has never faced before over the season’s first two and a half weeks.
Of the seven pitchers he faced in Kansas City earlier this month, LaRoche, who has a .229/.339/.458 slash line with three homers in 56 plate appearances, hadn’t seen three, including starters Ventura and Danny Duffy. Asked what has been a bigger challenge, transitioning from first base to designated hitter or switching leagues, LaRoche chose the latter.
“Seeing pitchers that I haven’t seen -- there’s a lot that I have seen,” LaRoche said. “The more guys are getting bounced around to the teams, I’m constantly facing guys that have been in the National League for a long time. But there’s still quite a few out there that I lean on these guys that have faced them quite a bit, pick their brain, watch some video and figure out what they’re doing.”
The tools are there to make it easier for players who make the switch. There’s video archives of everything, including each pitcher’s most recent outing. Players can easily dial up all their at-bats against particular pitchers. There are up to date scouting reports, if that’s your bag. But as manager Robin Ventura points out, it’s not just the pitchers to which hitters adjust.
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“These guys have a lot of video to look but it’s always different when you go out and play and its cold,” Ventura said. “There’s just different things, the way you see a baseball, certain stadiums you haven’t played in.”
LaRoche can do all the homework he wants but knows there’s no substitute for experience. Teammate Geovany Soto made the switch to the AL after four and a half seasons and said it takes time.
“It’s a period of adjustment,” Soto said. “You just have to experience it. You need to be in the box and live it, just to get a feel for it. You can talk all about him, scouting report, read all that. But until you step in there, you don’t have a feeling how he likes to pitch and where’s his arm angle and everything.”
That’s why this early stretch, where the White Sox play 25 of 28 games in division, actually works well for LaRoche. He already has seen Ventura twice and had two at-bats against Duffy, including the one where a pitch wound up behind his head. LaRoche has plenty of experience against Saturday starter Edinson Volquez, 19 at-bats worth.
“When you see a guy and then have to wait a month to see him again, at times it’s a little more difficult,” LaRoche said. “But we saw (Ventura) recently and know what he does. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. He’s a really good pitcher. So just do our thing.”