Cumberland Times-News

Mike Mathews - Sports

January 25, 2009

Good start a must for Pirates, LaRoches


LaRoche had a .295 career batting average in the minors with 95 home runs and 333 RBIs. His big-league career consists of just 111 games, 316 at-bats and a .184 average.

“I’m going into the season with a clean slate, ready to win the job out of spring training at third base, and go from there,’’ he said. “I want to make this a better team and make some improvement on from last year.”

A few seasons ago, Ryan Doumit was in the much the same position as LaRoche — trying to win a job and prove himself.

Those days are over for the switch-hitting catcher, who recently signed a $10.7 million, 3-year deal which, with incentives, could be worth as much as $27 million over five seasons.

Doumit was hitting .350 with five homers and 15 RBIs after 29 games last year when he fractured his left thumb in May and missed almost a month.

He ended up batting .318 and would have been fourth in the NL but came up 37 at-bats shy of qualifying for the batting title. He played in 116 games, led the NL with a .407 average with runners in scoring position, had 15 homers and 69 RBIs.

Despite being in the majors for just three seasons (.278 career average, 75 doubles, 36 HR, 153 RBI) Doumit, especially with Bay and Xavier Nady gone, sees himself in more of a leadership role this season.

“Absolutely, and not just because the catcher is kind of regarded as the quarterback on the field,’’ he said. “It’s one of those things where I’ve always kind of looked at myself as a leader.

“I like to lead by example. I know what it takes to win. I’ve been on winning, championship teams in the minors, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we show up this year.”

For every team, it starts on the mound. For the Pirates, it means a dramatic improvement is in order.

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Mike Mathews - Sports
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