The Washington Times - March 12, 2012, 07:50PM

VIERA, Fla. — In a spring already filled with obstacles for Adam LaRoche he passed one pivotal test Monday afternoon in the first inning of the Nationals’ 8-4 victory over the Cardinals.

With Yadier Molina on third base and Matt Holliday on first, LaRoche fielded a ground ball off the bat of first baseman Matt Adams and made a bang-bang throw to home plate to nab Molina and save Jordan Zimmermann a run. It was the first reactionary throw that LaRoche has made since he underwent surgery to repair a SLAP tear in his left shoulder last June. 

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Last year, before LaRoche succumbed to the labrum surgery, a throw like that might have caused him pain for two or three days after making it. There was no pain Monday, LaRoche said, just a little tightness he feels when he hasn’t been throwing for 20-30 minutes. The other good news was he felt he could have let it loose a bit more than he did.

“I’ve got a little more in the tank than that,” LaRoche said. “That was just, ‘Get it there in time.’ If I need to rush something or throw across to third, I’ve got a little more than that.”

The lack of pain, though, leads LaRoche to believe that in a few weeks even that tightness will have gone away and he’ll feel free when he has to power a throw.

“The way it’s progressing, I think two weeks from now it’ll be even better,” he said. “I’m fine with this if that’s the way it is, but I think it’s going to get better.”

LaRoche didn’t play in his first spring game until Saturday, hampered by a sprained left ankle that’s still not entirely healed, but he’s played in each of the Natioanls’ last three games (although Sunday’s doesn’t officially count because it was rained out in the fourth inning) and feels good enough to continue that way.

“It’s not great running the bases yet,” he admitted. “But it’s a lot better than it was… They’re wrapping it up pretty tight.”

– Matt Purke, who was included in the Nationals’ first round of cuts, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Zimmermann on Monday and allowed just one hit. He also struck out Matt Holliday, which seemed to impress Nationals manager Davey Johnson but didn’t register with Purke.

“Just another hitter,” Purke said as he packed his belongings to head over the Nationals’ minor league complex. “If you get caught up in that kind of stuff it takes you down the wrong path.” 

– Michael Morse was back in the lineup for the first time in a week and laced a double to left center field in his first at-bat. Morse, who served as the DH for the day, still has not begun throwing after receiving a cortisone shot in his right lat to ease a knot back there, but appears to be progressing well.

– Henry Rodriguez and Sean Burnett each turned in a scoreless inning of relief Monday with Rodriguez striking out two batters in the process. Unfortunately, reporters were in the clubhouse talking to Zimmermann at the time so there’s not much first-hand knowledge I can add to that report but we’ll see what the Nationals’ coaches have to say about it on Tuesday.