The travel adventures of Adam LaRoche
First baseman has been on the move over the last month
Welcome to the whirlwind world of Adam LaRoche, who in just more than one frantic week last month journeyed through three of baseball's six divisions and moved from the bottom of one race to the top of another to the middle of the third.
LaRoche's nine-day odyssey began in Pittsburgh, where he was in his third season as a solid-hitting first baseman. He got caught in the middle of a Pirates purge that also dispatched second baseman Freddy Sanchez to San Francisco, shortstop Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell to Seattle, and pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to Chicago. Pittsburgh had earlier sent LaRoche to Boston for a couple of prospects.
Not bad, he thought. The trade moved him from last place in the National League Central to a team that had spent much of the season in first place in the American League East. The Red Sox plugged him in the lineup, and he responded with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs over six games.
What he didn't know was that he was a temporary employee. When Boston completed a trade for Victor Martinez, it freed the Red Sox to move LaRoche again, this time to Atlanta in a swap for Casey Kotchman.
It was a return home for LaRoche, who spent his first three big league seasons with the Braves before being traded to the Pirates. The first baseman fit in immediately with his old team, hitting .403 with six home runs and 12 RBIs in his first 17 games back with the Braves, who are in the thick of the NL East and wild-card races.
Manager Bobby Cox couldn't be happier with LaRoche's production.
"Everything we expected we would get -- we're getting even more," he said.
"It was like I never left," LaRoche said. "It was like I was away for a little vacation and then came back."
He did, however, take the long way around.
LaRoche's adventure began on July 22 when the Pirates, intent on remaking their roster, swapped him to Boston. He sensed something was up when the lineup that day against Milwaukee was not posted in the clubhouse until shortly before game time, and he wasn't in it.
When the word came down about the trade, LaRoche decided to stick around for the game and joined the home-plate celebration for Brandon Moss' game-winning home run. "That was pretty cool -- to share that," he said.
Then it was on to Boston.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity -- that a team like that wants me," he said when he arrived in town. "I'm obviously loving it, and that's an understatement."
Not so fast.
The Red Sox wanted LaRoche but not as much as they wanted Martinez. When that trade with Cleveland was completed, LaRoche was on the move again, this time back to Atlanta, where he started his career.
"LaRoche did a nice job while he was here," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "With the addition of Victor Martinez, now there aren't quite as many at-bats available."
And the thinking in Boston was that Kotchman is better suited for part-time work than LaRoche.
The first trade sent LaRoche's wife scurrying to catch up. On the day LaRoche was traded from Pittsburgh to Boston, his family had already headed for Arizona, where the Pirates were to play next. With her husband settling in with the Red Sox, Jen LaRoche made a U-turn and headed back to Pittsburgh to prepare for the move to Boston.
Instead, it was on to Atlanta.
When the second trade was made, LaRoche hustled from Boston to join the Braves in Atlanta, but his flight was delayed by a bomb scare, just one more wrinkle in his strange, strange week.
Will LaRoche stay in Atlanta this time? Who knows? He is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Braves have a top first-base prospect in Freddie Freeman waiting in the wings.
No problem. There are plenty of places to play, something LaRoche found out in one hectic week in July.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.