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Adam LaRoche missed most of last season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said today the veteran first baseman is ready to go now and will be able to participate fully when spring training opens in mid-February.
"The word I got is he's 100 percent right now," Johnson said during his media session at the Winter Meetings. "He's feeling great. I'm sure he'll come down early [to spring training] and get after it."
LaRoche appeared in a career-low 43 games this season, batting a career-worst .172 with three homers and 15 RBI, before succumbing to the torn labrum that had hampered him since spring training. Already signed for $8 million in 2012, the 32-year-old will enter camp as the Nationals' starting first baseman and will be counted on to produce at his pre-injury level (he averaged 25 homers, 87 RBI and a .271 batting average from 2005-10).
But Johnson also wants to have a right-handed complement at first base so LaRoche can take some regular days off over the course of the season. The Nationals hoped that player might be Chris Marrero, but the rookie suffered a torn hamstring while playing in the Dominican Republic last month and isn't expected back until the All-Star break, according to Johnson.
"His injury was kind of left us another man short, as far as I'm concerned," the manager said, adding: "The right-handed bench player, utility player, is I think very important. I feel 100 percent sure Adam is going to be fine. But it would be nice to have a guy over there like we did last year."
One possible answer: Mark DeRosa, the veteran utilityman who has played every position in the majors besides center field and catcher. Hampered by a wrist injury, the 36-year-old played in only 73 total games the last two seasons with the Giants, but Johnson is a fan after managing him in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
"Really quality guy," Johnson said. "I really like him. If he's healthy, he fits the role about as good as you can get."