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Andy LaRoche getting in groove

Andy LaRoche getting in groove
MILWAUKEE -- When someone pointed out to Andy LaRoche on Wednesday that two Milwaukee Brewers still didn't have a hit this year, the Pirates' third baseman chuckled.

First baseman Brad Nelson was 0 for 14, and former Pirates outfielder Chris Duffy was 0 for 7.

"I've got that beat," LaRoche said.

LaRoche has gone from the league's coldest hitter to one of the Pirates' hottest bats. It seems like a distant memory when he opened the season mired in an 0 for 18 skid that ranked as the worst start in the majors.

But after tinkering with his stance, LaRoche is batting .356 (16 for 45) with seven doubles and eight RBI since that woeful start.

"He's doing well," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He made a little bit of an adjustment (to his stance). He opened him up a little bit. Immediately, you see the ball better."

LaRoche's career-best 11-game hitting streak ended Tuesday night, but he drilled a two-out double in the fifth inning yesterday. The hit broke up a perfect game by Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, who had retired 14 consecutive before LaRoche's no-doubt liner to right-center.

"He's just confident right now," Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche said of his younger brother. "He's relaxing and playing and not worrying about what happened in the past."

The past was not pretty.

LaRoche, one of the key pieces in Jason Bay trade, hit only .152 with 30 strikeouts in 49 games after arriving from the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. He called the final two months of the season "a catastrophe."

In spring training, LaRoche hit .333 with more walks (11) than strikeouts (nine), but then, he went the first week of the season without a hit. He also committed three errors in the first two games.

Since then, LaRoche, who entered the 2007 season as the No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers' farm system, has no errors.

"You just try to take every at-bat as a game and not worry about what you've done before," he said

Russell said LaRoche appears more comfortable this year.

"Hopefully, he got over that hurdle of trying to belong and trying to fit in," Russell said. "Now, he feels a big part of it."

LaRoche, along with older brother Adam, is one reason the Pirates will post their first winning April in seven years despite injuries to three of their top hitters -- Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson.

The younger LaRoche says his recent body of work will prove invaluable when he slips into the inevitable for any hitter -- a slump.

"I'd never put together a couple of great weeks in the big leagues before," he said. "Now, I've found the approach that works. I'm going to keep this in mind, so I'll will have something to go back on.

"If I go in a slump, I'll go watch film and see that I'm doing differently."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 1, 2009

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