LaRoche, Snell looking better

LaRoche, Snell looking better

PITTSBURGH -- In addition to coming out of Tuesday's game with a victory, the Pirates would like to believe they also emerged with a promising duo primed for a breakout second half.

It's easy to wonder where the Pirates, who entered play Wednesday five games below .500, would be had both Adam LaRoche and Ian Snell met their expectations in the first half. It's by no means inconceivable to assume Pittsburgh could be at or above the .500 mark if each had.

However, with little good done by mulling over what could have been, Snell's return on Tuesday and LaRoche's recent surge at the plate at least suggest that both could be ready for a second-half surge.

For LaRoche, his recent production seems to be right on track with his offensive jolt a year ago. The perennial slow starter pushed his average to .250 heading into Wednesday's game, his highest mark since Opening Day.

The Pittsburgh first baseman has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, including five multihit contests. In the entire month of April, LaRoche had just a pair of two-hit games.

"LaRoche has a track record," teammate Nate McLouth said. "He's going to hit. We've all seen how hard he's worked to get out of his little funk, and it's nice to have him start to come around now."

LaRoche has 14 hits in his last 25 at-bats and has hit .366 in his last 21 games.

As for Snell, the outcome wasn't ideal on Tuesday -- 88 pitches in 3 2/3 innings -- but the signs for a strong second half were there.

His fastball velocity was back up in the 93-95 mph range when desired, signaling a healthy arm. And the visible competitiveness that seemed lacking at times during the first three months of the season was evident, primarily through Snell's outward display of disgust at being pulled in the middle of the fourth.

"I'd rather see a guy come out like that than satisfied with what he's done," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I would be disappointed if a guy was very complacent."

Couple that with the fact fellow starter Paul Maholm has given Snell advice on retooling his daily workout routine, and Snell has reason to believe the potential to redeem himself with a strong second half is there.

"I've just got to take care of myself a little bit more," Snell said. "I was doing less strength work, and I couldn't find a routine to stick with. I was changing it every other week."

Snell, who will make one more start before the All-Star break, is 3-7 with a 5.84 ERA in his first 17 starts.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.