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Relaxing the best remedy for LaRoche

Relaxing the best remedy for LaRoche

PITTSBURGH -- There's only so much instruction and practice Andy LaRoche can take.

He has worked in the cage, fought through every batting practice and studied his swing on video time and again. He's basically done everything short of practicing voodoo in order to break from his recent hitting woes.

That frustration finally hit its boiling point in Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

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"I said, '[Forget] it,' " the third baseman said. "I'm just going to get in there, get relaxed and just try not to think about anything and just see it and hit it where it's pitched."

That new mentality produced a three-hit night and snapped an 0-for-21 streak. With the Pirates, LaRoche is now hitting .161 (19-for-118) with three home runs and eight RBIs. He's also struck out 21 times.

"A lot of times, what hurts a lot of hitters is when they start thinking too much instead of just going up there, being relaxed, and getting a pitch and hitting it," he said. "That's all you have to think about. If not, try to let it go and not worry about getting your foot down or getting your hands up or staying balanced. Leave that up to the cage, and when you get out there, just ... relax and hit it."

That was the exact message his older brother, Adam, was trying to get across last month. The veteran first baseman, who is no stranger to slow starts, told his across-the-diamond sibling that there's no need for self-applied pressure.

"It's not like we're going to the playoffs," Adam LaRoche said. "[That's] not to say these games don't mean anything, but ... this is a perfect time to get your feet wet.

"This is the first time he's really ever had consistent at-bats. I think he's feeling this is his opportunity to do something. He's probably trying to do too much."

Many questioned if Andy LaRoche carried his struggles at the plate with him on the field, as evidenced by his seven errors in a Pittsburgh uniform.

"I've been pretty relaxed fielding," he said. "I had a few plays not go my way, a few errors. For the most part, I've been pretty comfortable over there. I try to pride myself on solid defense [and] try to work extra hard on that.

"When you're not hitting, you got to be doing something right out there, and when you're not hitting and not playing defense, then you know you're in trouble."

He backed those words with solid plays on the field against the Cardinals, including two that robbed All-Star Albert Pujols of hits.

"He's been working really hard," manager John Russell said. "He's making the adjustment not to get too big late. He has that ability."

LaRoche will look to continue his newfound success against his former team, the Dodgers, this week. He was part of the trade with Boston and Los Angeles that sent Jason Bay to the Red Sox.

"Hopefully, I can do some damage against them; a little payback," he said of the Dodgers. "I'm going to take the same [batting] approach: stay relaxed and try not to think too much about it."

Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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