LaRoche sits to make room for Moore
MIAMI -- Adam LaRoche was out of the lineup for Monday's series opener against the Marlins, but it didn't have anything to do with his sore back or any other injury. In fact, he said, he's feeling better than he has in a while. And he'll be back in the lineup on Tuesday night.
Manager Davey Johnson told LaRoche earlier on Monday that he would have the night off in order for 26-year-old Tyler Moore to get a start and a few at-bats. A member of Washington's extremely deep bench, Moore entered Monday with only eight plate appearances and had yet to get on base this season.
But Moore made an impact with his first at-bat, connecting on a two-run single off Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc in the first inning, and he drove in another run on a double in his second at-bat. He finished the night 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored, giving him a much-needed confidence boost as he returns to his reserve role until called on again.
"I was a little surprised when I saw my name in the lineup today, but that's why Davey is so good of a manager," Moore said after the Nationals' 10-3 win. "He's loyal to his players, he believes in them, and he gave me an opportunity today. I was just glad to get the start and get some knocks out of the way.
"I think the hardest job is being a pinch-hitter. Every time you get a start, you try to value that. It just makes you calmer, because you're getting three at-bats. It makes you able to calm down. I was able to do that today. and it paid off. ... Now I can go back in my role and have confidence in doing it instead of kind of wondering."
The Nationals knew that playing time would be an issue given the amount of talent on the bench. That comes with the territory when players who would be in many teams' everyday lineups are relegated to reserve roles. Johnson had a chance to play two of his bench players on Monday night, with Steve Lombardozzi starting at second base in place of the injured Danny Espinosa. And Lombardozzi did his part as well, going 2-for-5 with an RBI double.
"We have unbelievable depth, and our team is built for the long haul. We can lose a guy and fill it in with an equally talented player, which is great," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think if you're trying to build an organization and kind of build for the future, that's what you've got to do."
LaRoche stressed before the game that he wants to play every day he's capable of doing so, but he also understands Johnson's predicament.
"I'm going to state my point and let him make the final decision and respect that. I certainly understand that T-Mo needs at-bats, and we've got to get guys in there," LaRoche said. "That's the only unfortunate thing about having bench guys that should be playing every day on most clubs.
"This is no time to be selfish. The guy needs to get some at-bats. It's tough being that young and coming off the bench, getting one at-bat every other night. As much as I want to play, I understand where the team is coming from."