CHICAGO -- After weeks of heavy tutorial and extra work, Andy LaRoche made his Pirates debut at second base on Tuesday.
LaRoche has been putting in hours of defensive work at second with infield coach Carlos Garcia for about three weeks now, after he lost his starting job at third with Pedro Alvarez's arrival. And with Neil Walker and Bobby Crosby unavailable on Tuesday because of injuries, manager John Russell felt comfortable enough giving LaRoche his first in-game test at the new position.
"Is he 100 percent ready? He's close," Russell said, suggesting the shortage of infielders pushed up LaRoche's timetable. "He's worked awfully hard. Being on the road for nine days, you can't do as much work. But he's done pretty well. He's got instincts of being an infielder, and I think that will take over. He should be fine."
Russell's other option at second would have been Delwyn Young, though Russell preferred having LaRoche in the lineup against a left-handed starter. Southpaw Ted Lilly got the call for the Cubs on Tuesday.
LaRoche started two games at second with the Dodgers in 2008, and played another eight there in the Minors. The majority of his defensive experience at the position actually came in high school when he was an everyday second baseman.
"I'm excited," LaRoche said of the start. "I've been working a lot out there, whether it's early or whether it's during batting practice. I'm starting to feel comfortable over there turning two, getting my flips to second and ground balls."
His biggest concern? Remembering where to be for cutoffs and relay throws.
"Hopefully we'll get a little refresher course before the game," he said smiling.
Simply being in the starting lineup is a big deal for LaRoche, who had just nine at-bats since June 16. He'd made only one start during that span, and had gone 1-for-6 off the bench.
"It feels weird over there [on the bench]," LaRoche said. "You kind of get bored. It has been tough. But you've got to stay ready, and whatever they want you to do, you've just got to be ready for the opportunity and take advantage of it when it comes."