Cumberland Times-News

Mike Mathews - Sports

January 25, 2009

Good start a must for Pirates, LaRoches

LAVALE — Midway through last year’s Major League Baseball season it was pretty much a certainty the Pittsburgh Pirates would be trading Jason Bay.

When it finally happened, three teams and six players were involved, with Bay moving to Boston, and Manny Ramirez going from the Red Sox to the Dodgers.

Andy LaRoche found himself headed to Pittsburgh, where he’d be reunited with older brother Adam to form half of the Pirates infield.

The Dodgers’ second-best prospect according Baseball America entering the 2008 season, Andy LaRoche knows the importance of getting off to a good start.

He didn’t have one at Pittsburgh. A thumb injury a few days after the trade and the pressure of being the new kid on the block were two of the reasons that made the final months of the season so difficult.

“I tried to make a good impression when I first got there. It didn’t really work out as I planned,’’ said LaRoche, who had an 0-for-27 streak in August. In 49 games with the Bucs he batted .152 with three homers and 12 RBI. He also committed nine errors.

“I want to forget about last year,’’ he said.

If ever there were a team in need of a good start in 2009, it would be the Pirates, hoping for their first winning season since 1992. And if there were a person in need of a good start more than any other, it would be a LaRoche. Either Andy or Adam, who has had rotten starts the last two seasons, only to warm up by midseason to post respectable numbers.

“It’s really important to get off to a good start. I’ve learned from last year ... I struggled a little bit and had some injuries,’’ said Andy during the Pirates Caravan stop here last week. “I didn’t get into any kind of groove and I couldn’t get my swing down. I’ve worked on some things this offseason with hitting coach Don Long and am looking forward to this spring and getting a fresh start.”

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Mike Mathews - Sports
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