LaRoche gets day to work out kinks

LaRoche gets day to work out kinks

ST. LOUIS -- Andy LaRoche got plenty of activity at third base on Wednesday, though it all came hours before the lights were turned on for the Pirates' night game at Busch Stadium.

LaRoche was out of Wednesday's lineup, a move that didn't come as much of a surprise considering he had committed three fielding errors in the first two games of the season.

"Just give him a little break," manager John Russell explained. "I said that I'd like to get those [veteran bench] guys some opportunities early. It also gives Andy a day to step back and relax a little bit."

Ramon Vazquez made his first start with the Pirates in LaRoche's place.

Though LaRoche didn't make the start, he did take about 30 minutes of extra infield work under the watchful eyes of the majority of the coaching staff -- Russell, base coaches Perry Hill and Tony Beasley, and bench coach Gary Varsho. The goal of the work was to halt a bad habit that Hill saw LaRoche unknowingly begin to develop.

Over these past two days, LaRoche has been flipping his glove while fielding ground balls. In other words, LaRoche started with his glove facing his body and then flipped it over to make the play. The motion made LaRoche a split-second late in getting his glove down to field the ball, enough time to give him problems. It also inadvertently caused him to pull his hands back a bit, which also throws off timing.

"I didn't even notice I was doing it," LaRoche said after his infield session. "I guess it's just one of those things that you're not even paying attention to and you don't even realize you're doing it until someone points it out to you."

Both of LaRoche's errors on Monday were on ground balls that hit his glove and scooted away from him. His error on Tuesday came when he dropped a towering infield popup off the bat of Albert Pujols. The three errors led to a total of three unearned runs.

"Those plays have to be made," LaRoche said. "This is the Major Leagues. If you make it, nobody notices it. But when you miss it, it's under the spotlight. It let my team down."

As bad as these two days may have seemed, they might not have actually been LaRoche's worst sequence of defensive miscues. Back in 2005, when he was called up to Double-A Jacksonville, LaRoche committed three errors on the first two balls hit to him. He was booed by the Jacksonville home crowd.

"The feeling I had after that game was kind of like the feeling I had after yesterday's game and the first game," LaRoche said.

LaRoche began this season already in the spotlight, having much to prove after a dismal showing both offensively and defensively after being traded to Pittsburgh last July. He committed nine errors in 49 games with the Pirates last year.

Offensively, LaRoche is 0-for-6 so far this year, though he did emphasize on Wednesday that he is feeling just fine at the plate.

"Now [I] just [need to] focus on getting back out there and doing the extra work every day and staying healthy," said LaRoche, who is expected back in the lineup for Thursday's series finale. "You never want an off-day unless there is something physically wrong. I don't like them. I want to get out there and play every day."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.