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Same-game pain, but LaRoche out at least two months

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Andy LaRoche had no idea getting hit by a baseball could do so much
damage.

LaRoche tore a ligament in his right thumb trying to catch a
pickoff play at third base during Friday's 6-4 loss to St. Louis.
He will have surgery Monday in Los Angeles and miss eight to 10
weeks, taking him out of a two-man competition at third and making
Nomar Garciaparra the probable opening-day starter despite his own
injury.

"I guess you can't say it's as bad as finding out someone died
or something, but it's a shock," LaRoche said Saturday. "You
don't believe it at first. I just got hit by a baseball, but it's
just one of those things you've got to accept it."

LaRoche entered the game in the fourth inning as a pinch runner
for Garciaparra, who was hit by a pitch on his right wrist.

A half inning later, the 24-year-old LaRoche was injured when
catcher Danny Ardoin's pickoff throw to third deflected off runner
D'Angelo Jimenez and jarred his thumb.

LaRoche batted .350 in nine spring games with a home run and two
RBIs.

"I feel badly. I sat and talked to Andy this morning," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Saturday in Jupiter. "... He seems to be fine, and we certainly will keep track of him on a regular basis."

Garciaparra suffered swelling and bruising from the hit and is
day to day but X-rays found no serious problems.

"The thing with the hand is there are so many little bones in
there you just don't know, so we just wanted to go make sure.
Obviously, it was good to hear nothing was broken," said
Garciaparra, who is batting .375 after hitting just .283 last
season.

Garciaparra was scheduled to leave Wednesday for Beijing, where
the team will play two exhibition games against the San Diego
Padres.

LaRoche expected to return to Vero Beach by Wednesday or
Thursday after his surgery so he can continue working out.

Though his thumb will be immobile at first, trainer Stan Conte
told him his rehabilitation will begin with exercises such as
playing video games, which is "not a bad way to rehab," LaRoche
said.

After three to six weeks, he should be able to start hitting and
throwing again.

"You just try to keep your spirits up and try not to miss a
beat conditioning wise," LaRoche said. "You just hope and pray
for a strong recovery."