LaRoche no stranger to slow starts

Veteran knows how to work through March/April struggles

LaRoche no stranger to slow starts

CHICAGO -- Adam LaRoche has been here before.

Not with the White Sox, as Sunday's 6-2 victory over the Twins marked just his sixth start as part of the South Siders. And certainly not as a designated hitter, as the Gold Glove-winning first baseman has just 11 career games of DH experience, including this season.

This tale centers on slow starts that have plagued the accomplished 35-year-old for much of his 12-year-career. LaRoche's career numbers entering Sunday showed a .263 average, 244 homers, a .339 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage.

In March/April for his career, LaRoche was hitting .222 with 35 homers, a .316 on-base and .400 slugging entering Sunday. He raised his April homer total to 36 with one of his two hits off of Minnesota starter Phil Hughes Sunday. LaRoche isn't quite sure why the first month is the toughest, but he understands how to work through this latest difficult opening.

LaRoche's solo shot

"I've had a lot of years where it has taken me a minute to get going," LaRoche said. "The bright side there is I've been through it before. A younger me would get really frustrated, but I know that doesn't help accomplish anything.

"When you struggle and you're losing games, it makes it really tough. If you're struggling and you're still winning games, you can get through that and it's fine. But when you have a chance to help the team out and not do it just as a group, we need to relax and realize how good we are and let it happen."

LaRoche had 46 at-bats during Spring Training, although he was hampered at times by back stiffness and the flu. He also went to Minor League games on a couple of occasions to get eight or nine at-bats in one afternoon.

That great feeling at the plate still hasn't come to him quite yet. But he's not using his first primary full-time foray into the designated hitter's role as an excuse.

"He's not a guy for excuses," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Even players during the year that will get a spot start at DH, it's just different. You don't feel like you're really in the game as much as you do when you've always been a guy on the field. It can become an uncomfortable thing for some guys. He's getting better at it."

"It's different but I'll get used to it. It's a lot easier here," LaRoche said.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.