07/24/09 7:06 PM ET
LaRoche excited to join a contender
Reduced playing time doesn't bother newest Sox acquisition
By John Barone / MLB.com
"Have you had any 'I'm definitely not in Pittsburgh' moments yet?" a reporter asked.
"No," said the newly acquired first baseman, staring out at a crowded Fenway Park interview room. "Will I?"
"You might be having one right now," quipped another reporter.
Acquired by the Red Sox from the Pirates on Wednesday in a three-player deal, the mild-mannered LaRoche knows he's likely in for a culture shock. He also knows it won't bother him.
After nearly three seasons in Pittsburgh, which acquired the 29-year-old California native from Atlanta in 2007, LaRoche, a six-year veteran, relishes the opportunity to play for a contender once again. Even if it means reduced playing time on a team that already features a pair of All-Star corner infielders in Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis.
"I'm loving it," said LaRoche, who batted .247 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 87 games with the Pirates this season. "That's an understatement. I've heard about this organization my whole career, so to come check it out for myself is pretty neat.
"To come over and play for this club and have a chance to move forward in the playoffs is something that, when it happened my first two years in Atlanta [2004-05], I think I took it for granted. We haven't been anywhere close the last few years with Pittsburgh. I can handle not playing as much if we have a chance to play in October."
A relaxed individual by nature -- he labeled gregarious slugger David Ortiz as close to his polar opposite -- LaRoche took up a locker in the Red Sox's clubhouse between two other soft-spoken players, both of whom happen to be former teammates: Jason Bay and J.D. Drew.
"I've been picking their brains a little bit," said LaRoche, who is living with Drew for the time being. "I know it will be fun to play in front of a packed house of fans who expect to win. I don't stress out a whole lot, so I think it will be a good fit."
Like Bay last summer, LaRoche is exchanging the winning-starved culture of Pittsburgh for a heated pennant race.
"It starts to wear on you," LaRoche said of losing so many games with the Pirates. "Don't get me wrong, I made some great friends in my years in Pittsburgh. I hope the direction they're going over there is a good one. I hope they're building for the future. I don't know how long that's going to be, but I can't think of a better situation than ending up in Boston."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.