TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks acquired Adam LaRoche for his consistent bat and stellar defense. Arizona manager A.J. Hinch also likes the first baseman's leadership.
Little seems to faze the soft-spoken LaRoche, traded from Pittsburgh to Boston to Atlanta during the season last year. He had a career-high 154 hits and made only two errors.LaRoche belted his first home run of the spring on Friday, an opposite-field, two-run shot in Arizona's 10-1 win over the Oakland Athletics. Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy improved to 2-0, giving up two hits in three innings."Adam is a guy who other infielders can lean on for some leadership," Hinch said. "He's not going to be the loudest voice. But he's got a presence about him that brings a calmness to our clubhouse."He's built the right way, both mentally and physically. I don't want to jinx him, but he's almost like clockwork when it comes to run production."The 30-year-old LaRoche, entering his seventh big-league season, hit .274 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs and had a .999 fielding percentage in 2009. Last year, Arizona ranked near the bottom of the NL in batting average and committed 124 errors, second-highest in the NL.LaRoche, batting cleanup against the A's, hit a fastball from Brett Anderson over the left-field wall in the first inning to give the Diamondbacks a 2-0 lead."Every once in a while, I get into one," said LaRoche, joking with reliever Clay Zavada in the clubhouse afterward.Anderson pitched 2 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and four hits. The 22-year-old left-hander, who set an Oakland rookie record with 150 strikeouts last season, struck out one and registered five ground-outs Friday."I was happy with the ground balls," said Anderson, who was drafted by Arizona but sent to Oakland in a deal that brought Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks in December 2007. "In my first outing, I had too many fly-ball outs. "I've been working on my change-up, which will help me out a lot."Kennedy looked strong in his second spring outing, striking out Jack Cust and Jake Fox. Oakland's Daric Barton singled in the first and doubled in the third, the only two hits Kennedy gave up."I felt good, but I threw a little too many pitches than I wanted to," Kennedy said. "I think I was trying to be a little too fine early on."Kennedy, who came to Arizona from the New York Yankees, said he's been having success with his two-seam fastball since "finally committing to it" in the Fall League.As for LaRoche, he hopes to find some stability with the Diamondbacks after moving his family three times in the last year. Pittsburgh traded LaRoche to Boston on July 12, but the Red Sox shipped him a few weeks later to Atlanta, where LaRoche began his career."I'm impressed with the talent we have here, the fire these guys have to get back to the playoffs," LaRoche said about his new teammates. "They know that last year was kind of a fluke for them."LaRoche finds a familiar face next to him in the infield, former Atlanta second baseman Kelly Johnson, another defensive upgrade for the Diamondbacks."We complement each other well because I'm very slow and Kelly is so fast," the 6-fot-3, 205-pound LaRoche said.
RHP Brandon Webb, who could start the season on the disabled list, told Hinch he "felt good" while doing some soft toss work Friday. ... Arizona SS Stephen Drew went 2 for 4 with a two-run double down the right-field line in the sixth inning. Oakland's Barton had three hits to raise his average this spring to .400. Jerry Blevins, who is battling for a spot in the A's bullpen, kept Arizona hitless for 1 1/3 innings after replacing Anderson in the third inning.