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Adam LaRoche went 1-for-2 with a walk in his first big-league game since March 15.
"I'll tell you what: Let's just put this behind us," LaRoche told his manager. "I feel like this is over with. Let's move on and rock-and-roll for the season."
That was music to Johnson's ears. After spending much of the last month wondering about the status of his veteran first baseman, he's now confident that won't be a lingering issue any longer.
"Yeah, I even said if he's going to hit left-handers like that, I may revisit the platoon thing," Johnson said, perhaps going back on his plan to have LaRoche share time at first base with right-handed veteran Mark DeRosa.
If LaRoche looks as comfortable at the plate as he did today, the Nationals won't have much to worry about at all. Making his first appearance in a big-league game since March 15, he grounded out in the second inning, then lined a single up the middle in the fourth and drew a walk in the sixth.
LaRoche didn't have much of a chance to run the bases, but he said his foot and ankle felt fine making the few turns he did. He also looked perfectly at ease in the field, corralling the only groundball hit his way and picking several throws from his fellow infielders.
This proved a much more pleasurable experience for LaRoche than his time in minor-league camp, where he struggled to find a comfort level at the plate.
"It's just tough to hit down there for some reason," he said. "I don't know if it's the batter's eye or what it is, I don't see the ball well down there. I don't feel as locked in, as intense. I really wanted to come up here, be on the field with these guys and see some pitches on the big field. All went well."
Johnson said LaRoche will be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Marlins, and he should see plenty of action during the final week of camp, trying to squeeze in as many at-bats as possible prior to the Nationals' April 5 season opener in Chicago.
"It's had plenty of time to rest," he said. "Let's push it a little bit and see how it's going to bounce back, back-to-back days. I haven't found out. Hopefully do that tomorrow and then take it one day at a time. But I don't have any worries right now."
LaRoche's return helps solidify a Nationals lineup that didn't look too imposing at times this spring. With both LaRoche and Michael Morse (lat strain) sidelined for two weeks, Johnson hadn't been able to get a good look at his regular offensive unit.
Morse still figures to make a brief stint on the disabled list to open the season, so the Nationals will be forced to bump Jayson Werth up to the cleanup slot. LaRoche will likely hit fifth, with either DeRosa or Wilson Ramos behind him.