LaRoche puts it all together after slump

LaRoche puts it together after slump

MILWAUKEE -- Andy LaRoche knew the hits would eventually come. Now, it's a question of when they'll stop.

The Bucs' third baseman has quietly put together a career-high 11-game hitting streak and raised his average to .263 after starting the season hitless in his first 18 at-bats. LaRoche finally ended the drought with a sixth-inning single on April 16 against Atlanta. Since then, the 25-year-old has been one of the team's toughest outs, going 15-for-41 (.366) with six doubles and eight RBIs.

"Even in the beginning of the year, I was feeling good and hitting the ball well," LaRoche said. "Now, they're starting to fall."

Despite going through one of the worst early-season slumps of his career, he never got down on himself. LaRoche said it was never a timing issue -- an early problem for many professional hitters -- or difficulty seeing the ball.

LaRoche came off of a productive Spring Training where he batted .333 (17-for-51) with two home runs.

"It was getting kind of amusing," LaRoche said. "I would hit another ball right at someone again and just laugh about it. I just stuck with it and tried to have good at-bats."

LaRoche closed out last weekend's three-game series at San Diego with a pair of multi-hit games and extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff double in the fourth inning at Milwaukee on Monday night.

"He's doing well," Pittsburgh skipper John Russell said. "He got off to a slow start and was pressing a little bit. He made a nice adjustment and the confidence level is back. He's starting to show some of the talent he has."

LaRoche was benched twice early in the season for his struggles at the plate and in the field. The former Dodgers top prospect committed three errors in the first two games of the season. LaRoche hasn't committed an error since.

"Hopefully, he's got over that hurdle of trying to belong and trying to fit in," Russell said. "Not that he's not going to go through a bad stretch at some point the rest of the year, but I think he's better equipped to handle it now. Maybe some of it was early-game jitters."

LaRoche joined the Pirates and became teammates with his older brother, Adam LaRoche, last season in the three-team Manny Ramirez deal at the Trade Deadline. Andy LaRoche batted .152 (25-for-164) in 49 games with the Pirates last year.

Jeff Zampanti is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.