Friday, January 14, 2011

Adam LaRoche Introductory Press Conference

"You are going to have your hot streaks. You are going to have your slumps. While your defense, especially on the infield and in my position--I have the chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make them look really bad or I can make them look pretty good and vice versa. It’s something I have always taken pride in. I love when those guys make a great play and errant throw and I am able to bail them out and potentially save some runs."

In his introductory news conference before the Washington media this afternoon, Adam LaRoche displayed a quiet confidence at Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals newest player also said he came to the Nation's Capital to win:

"I think I can speak for everybody here that they (The Nationals) are just tired of losing and that is why all of these moves are taking place and moving in a positive direction."

Wearing uniform Number 25, previously worn by Nats Wil Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman (in September 2005), Marlon Byrd, Austin Kearns, Carlos Maldonaldo & Tyler Walker (Drew Storen wished to wear Number 25 in 2011 but LaRoche has seniority, thus Storen will now wear 22)--Adam LaRoche answered questions for about 20 minutes today before the Meet & Greet broke up for individual one-on-ones with participants. With that, here is the complete transcript from today's Introductory Press Conference with Adam LaRoche.

John Dever (Senior Director, Baseball Public Relations): Good Afternoon everybody. I would like to thank everyone for being with us here today at Nationals Park. And I would also like to say hello to our fan base tuning in today on MASN. Thanks for spending a part of your Friday afternoon with us. One quick reminder, just 32 days from now pitchers and catcher report to Spring Training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. So it’s coming fast and we are looking forward to a great 2011.

 Well, a week ago today, The Nationals announced the signing of 1st Baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract. A consistent power threat, Adam has hit 20 or more home runs each of the last six seasons and his ability to hit for power from the left side of our lineup balances the lineup that will now feature some combination of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the middle of that lineup. This signing is also consistent with the organization’s philosophy as Adam is regarded as an elite defender at 1st base where he will positively impact the entire infield, as well as, our young pitching staff.

Now that we know a little bit about Adam, let’s meet him. And to help do this today, I would like to introduce Nationals Field Manager Jim Riggleman, our newest National Adam LaRoche, and Mike Rizzo--the Nationals VP of Baseball Operations and General Manager. And at this time, I would like to acknowledge and recognize Adam’s wife, Jennifer, and welcome her to the Nationals' Family. In a moment, Mike will make a brief statement and then we will head into the traditional jersey unveiling. Then he (Adam) will return to his seat and have a brief opening statement of his own.

So Mike, if you could get us started, I would appreciate it.

Mike Rizzo: Great, thanks John. Good afternoon everybody. Thank you for coming to what is a very important day and a very enjoyable day for The Washington Nationals Family. We get to unveil, if you will, our newest prize--1st Baseman Adam LaRoche. This is a player we identified early in the process as a guy that fit perfectly for our ball club, offensively, defensively and from the left side of the plate--great character, on and off the field--good in the dugout--good in the clubhouse--good in the community. So we feel that without further ado, announce the newest member of The Washington Nationals Family--Adam LaRoche.

Applause followed by the customary donning of the jersey and handshake. The actual hat was too big for LaRoche and there was some light-hearted laughter over the moment.

Adam LaRoche: Just real quick. I want to thank Mike and Jim and my agent, Mike Milchin. You guys had some pretty good battles in getting this done and I am glad it worked out. It’s great to be here. I love the direction this team is going and what Mike has done so far. And I think this is a great start. It’s going to be a fun year and, again, we only just about 30 days away. We are all ready to get out there. Thank you.

Question: Adam, congratulations. I spoke to Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett (former teammates in Pittsburgh) and they say you bring leadership both on and off the field. Can you elaborate on your leadership you bring to the Nationals?

LaRoche: Hold on here, I got some issues with some buttons here (as he re-buttons his jersey--chuckles). I think a lot of that comes with some experience and getting to play in the big leagues now for going on eight years. A lot of the guys I came up with in Atlanta were kind of my mentors in watching (John) Smoltz, Chipper (Jones) and Andruw Jones and those guys--and the way they handled themselves. And in the way, Bobby (Cox) handled his club. And to see that for three years was really as good as it gets--as far as seeing how the game is supposed to be played and seeing how you are suppose to handle yourself on the field, in the clubhouse, media--you name it. So I came up in some pretty good hands and I have been lucky to pass that on to some other guys.

Question: At what point in the off-season did the Nationals get on your radar and what put them there? And showing you that they are ready to compete?

LaRoche: I don’t know. I don’t know an exact date--you might know (looking at Rizzo)? It was early on when we started talking. And again, it was a place I wanted to end up. There was obviously a few teams out there in the mix. I can remember telling my agent, Mike--I said that if this is all possible let’s get this done in Washington. And then obviously signing (Jayson) Werth was huge. You put a guy like that not only in the clubhouse but also in the middle of the lineup and playing rightfield is obviously a huge pickup. And I think if we keep adding pieces, this could be a really good thing.

Question: Roy Clark was the scouting director with the Braves when you were drafted and is the assistant GM here now. What is your relationship with him and did he have any influence on you coming here?

LaRoche: No. I haven’t talked to Roy. I talked to him last year, but I haven’t talked to him this winter. I am looking forward to it. I always enjoy sitting down with him. We had some good times in Atlanta there coming up--when he was down on the field a lot more--especially down in the minor leagues. So yeah, it will be good to catch up to him.

Question: In terms of perception of the franchise, the Nationals, has that changed among players with the Harper thing, Strasburg thing and obviously, the Jayson Werth signing? Has it flipped the image of the organization?

LaRoche: I think it has helped. I think that is still something you have to earn. You have to do it with going out and winning. This is definitely a good start. I think I can speak for everybody here that they are just tired of losing and that is why all of these moves are taking place--and moving in a positive direction. But yeah, I think that as far as the respect from other teams and getting other teams to come in here and actually be nervous--and not looking forward to playing the Nationals--is the ultimate goal. But that takes time and just going out there and proving it.

Question: Looking back to last year, you got off to a great start. Do you think that puts to bed some of the talk about you getting off the slow starts? And if that is the case, what was different last year?

LaRoche: Absolutely nothing. I haven’t changed. Early on, it got frustrating having a slow start and totally opposite first and second halves. That’s something where now at the end of the year I am in a pretty good spot. I think last year definitely helped, to answer your question. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t do anything differently in preparation during the off-season. It was just one of those years where it started to click early and it was good to have that personally--to know this is not a yearly thing.

Question: Have you given much thought, now that you are signed sealed and delivered, what hitting in the middle of this lineup with Zimm and Werth might be like?

LaRoche: It will be a really good situation. It will be nice to help protect those guys a little bit--however that works out in the lineup. That’s not up to me, but I’ve always said I like to be in a position to drive in runs. And there’s been teams where I’ve been in the three and four holes, and teams where I have hit sixth--and had plenty of opportunities to do that. So yeah, depending on how we work things out, I think we can help each other, help protect each other and feed off of that.

Question: In an interview this week, you mentioned former and current Nationals you have spoken with. Could you share how they have influenced you in making the decision to come here?

LaRoche: Yeah. Obviously, we all talk a lot in the winter, especially with ex-teammates and current teammates. I talked with Matt Capps a little bit. He obviously loved it here. A great guy who I have a lot of respect for. He flat out came out and said it’s a great place to play. Adam Dunn, the same way. He was here a couple of years. He said the direction they are going from the front office to field operations, the coaching staff--everything is first class. And he totally recommended coming here. When you hear that from guys who have been around, guys you respect, and from guys who have been here and played here--it makes that decision pretty easy.

Question: Can you talk about how much pride you take in your defense and how much you value that and how that is going to help the team?

LaRoche: Yeah, I do. I have always said that hitting is streaky. You are going to have your hot streaks. You are going to have your slumps. While your defense, especially on the infield and in my position--I have the chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make them look really bad or I can make them look pretty good and vice versa. It’s something I have always taken pride in. I love when those guys make a great play and errant throw and I am able to bail them out and potentially save some runs. I think pitchers appreciate it just as much as the guy that threw the ball in the dirt. Obviously, it helps them, it saves them from throwing more pitches and runs and ultimately--games. So yeah, it’s something I work hard on and, again, I like it that I can pick those guys up as much as anything.

Question: Did you place any premium on staying in the National League?

LaRoche: A little bit. A little bit. This has been my whole career if you discount the week I was in Boston. I played in the American League briefly. I’ve been in the National League since 2004. If there was any chance of staying here, obviously depending on the situation, this is where I wanted to be and hopefully can finish off my career here.

Question: You mentioned you spoke to Adam Dunn who was a productive player here and very popular both in teammates and fans. Do you put any pressure on yourself to either match or somehow provide an adequate replacement for Dunn in terms of the clubhouse impact?

LaRoche: No, I don’t at all. I don’t compare myself to Adam Dunn. We are two different players other than we play the same position. Again, I have a lot of respect for him but I’ve never played with him. So as far as his presence, the clubhouse and his day-to-day business, I am not too familiar with. I play my own game. I am not going to come in and put pressure on myself to try to do what he did and match his numbers--good or bad--defense, offense. And I am sure he is the same way.

Question: Over the past couple of years, you’ve actually hit well here at Nationals Park. Anything that makes you feel a little more comfortable here at Nationals Park?

LaRoche: No, not really. I enjoy playing here. I’ve been able to come here quite a bit, obviously being in the National League and playing in the east a little bit. But I don’t know, whether it’s the backdrop or what it is? Some fields, it’s funny, you see the ball great and other guys don’t. And in other places, you don’t see it real good. I didn’t know that, so that is good to know that I see the ball well here. Thank you. (chuckles all around)

Question: Jim Riggleman could you talk about how much Adam will improve the defense in the infield?

Riggleman: The ball club was making strides last year. Our guys put a lot of work in. Everybody worked very hard. We, just as a group, hit times where the defense wasn’t where we wanted it to be. Adam Dunn worked very hard for us. Adam was such a big guy and he did some good things over there for us. So we will never, maybe, totally appreciate some of the things he did. Adam worked very hard, as has been spoken a lot here. He’s a great teammate, but we feel like with Adam LaRoche and with the defense Werth can give us--the continued development of (Ian) Desmond and (Danny) Espinosa, Zimmerman speaks for himself over there at third base--we feel like collectively it’s just one more athletic guy that can we can put out there. And moves us more in that direction of just putting more guys out there defensively that are not just good defenders, like in Adam’s (LaRoche’s) case and a few others--but outstanding defenders.

Question: You’ve had a well-publicized struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). And I know you’ve struggled with the medication as well. Is that something now resolved and how do you feel about that?

LaRoche: I feel fine. That’s one thing that got overblown a little bit. I did come out and talk about ADD and about the medication and how much it helped. But yeah, it’s been fine. It’s something, I think back in 2005, where I said I need to find out what’s going on? And sure enough, this has helped. I take it (medication). And I take daily. I can not take it and still function. I think a lot of people think if I don’t take it my wife has got to spoon feed me. (laughter) But thankfully, it’s not that severe. It definitely helps. And it’s something I think the league is really cracking down on. It’s not easy, but it’s going on five or so years and I’ve had no problems.

Question: Jim, where do you see Adam hitting in your lineup?

Jim Riggleman: We scratch out lineups all the time, pretty much through the last game of last season and thinking about the next--putting lineups down on napkins and so forth. But, I think sometimes we can over think it a little bit. I think Adam said it. He can be productive in several spots. I think we will let spring training determine what we direction we will go with 3-4-5 with Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche or Zimmerman, LaRoche or Werth. We can play around with it. You’ve got three good hitters right there that sometimes, as again Adam said, will struggle a little bit with the bat. You might move them up and down a slot to get a different feel. You are stepping in the batters box and changing things up a bit. But ultimately, we are just fortunate to have all three of them there. I don’t know if it’s really going to matter where they are hitting.

With that final answer, the introductory press conference with Adam LaRoche concluded. More coming later on Nats320.

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