LaRoche taking advantage of utility role

LaRoche taking advantage of utility role

LaRoche taking advantage of utility role
CHICAGO -- The A's received a surprise spark last year in the form of a utility infielder.

Adam Rosales has since been sidelined as he recovers from right foot surgery, but the new guy in town is picking up right where Rosales left off.

Andy LaRoche, signed by the A's to a Minor League contract in late January, received his fifth start of the season on Tuesday, making his third start at shortstop, and entered the contest batting .417 in 12 at-bats.

LaRoche was handed the start, in part, because Cliff Pennington is dealing with an infection in the sweat gland under his left arm. But manager Bob Geren noted that plugging LaRoche in the lineup these days has been an easy choice.

"When a guy is swinging the bat well," he said, "we'll find ways to get him in there."

LaRoche is relishing the opportunity, especially after a Spring Training during which he wasn't even guaranteed a big league job.

"Honestly, I didn't know what my chances were," he said. "No one really knew me or the type of player I was, and I wanted to show I could play multiple positions."

With his bat doing most of the talking and his glove steadily progressing, LaRoche ultimately beat out Eric Sogard for the utility spot and represented the lone non-roster guy to make the team.

The 27-year-old LaRoche hit .206 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 102 games with Pittsburgh last year. Fifty-two of his 58 starts were at third base, where he feels most comfortable. But he was drafted by the Dodgers as a shortstop, and it's there where he's been able to show off an arm that has always been strong, thanks to endless rounds of long toss with brothers Adam and Jeff and father Dave while growing up.

"I've always had a fairly above-average arm," he said. "My brothers were always the pitchers and I was always the catcher. I wanted to throw it as hard as them, so it kind of came natural [since] they we were blessed with those arms."

Rosales' looming return, expected in May, leaves LaRoche's future in limbo. For now, though, he has too much to worry about on the field to even start thinking about next month's possibilities.

"Obviously, I'd much rather be playing every day, but the fact that there are four different positions out there that they can have me play, it's nice knowing there are opportunities for me to give guys days off," he said. "I still have a lot of work to do, a long way to go, but I feel like I can go out to any one position and hold my own. Hopefully, no one can tell it's a third baseman out there."

"He's been great," Pennington said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence right now."