Stiff back keeps LaRoche out vs. Reds

Stiff back keeps LaRoche out vs. Reds

CINCINNATI -- For the fifth consecutive game, third baseman Andy LaRoche and his stiff back were not in the Pirate's starting lineup. Before the game vs. the Reds, manager John Russell did little to shed light on the subject, saying he was hopeful LaRoche could return "in the next couple days."

LaRoche was scheduled to get in some running before Wednesday's game, and Russell said LaRoche -- the .256 hitter who hasn't played since going 0-for-4 Friday against the Braves -- continues to make progress. But the Pirates don't want to bring him back into the lineup too soon.

LaRoche, though, has indicated to at least one beat reporter that he's ready to return to the lineup.

"We don't want it to come back -- a stiff back like that," Russell said. "It starts feeling good, and you get back there too quick, and he'll go through the same thing again. We just want to make sure he's doing all the stuff he needs to do before he can get back out there again. If not, two or three days later, it could flare up again. We want to really get it under control."

Russell was asked if there was any chance LaRoche's back could land him on the disabled list as he continues to heal.

"We shouldn't have to," Russell said.

His replacements the past two days have performed well in LaRoche's absence. Delwyn Young, who played Monday, and Neil Walker -- who started at third base Tuesday and played there again Wednesday night -- have combined to go 4-for-9 with four doubles and two RBIs.