The Washington Times - April 6, 2013, 12:24PM

CINCINNATI — Adam LaRoche was out of the Nationals’ lineup for Saturday’s matinee against the Cincinnati Reds, unable to loosen the muscles in the middle of his back enough for him to play.

LaRoche, whose back stiffened up after playing in the cold conditions on Wednesday night, has been battling the stiffness for a few days. But Friday night was the first time he could feel it creeping up on him when he was in the batter’s box. He was pulled after six innings.

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“I don’t need it to be totally gone to be able to go play and be productive,” LaRoche said Saturday mroning. “I just need to be able to move around a little bit. Right now, it’s tough to bend over and get back up.

“(When I felt it in the batter’s box), that’s when I said ‘I’ve had enough.’ Up until then it was tight and I could get on-deck and get loose at least enough to climb in the box. But as soon as I started to feel it while I was hitting, I said ‘I’ve got to shut it down.’”

The Nationals’ first baseman was hopeful that with the day off on Saturday, along with sustained treatment from the trainers (who’ve put him on a muscle relaxer and are alternating heat and ice on his back), he would be able to play on Sunday.

“I’m going to do everything I can do to get in there tomorrow,” LaRoche said. “And then I’ll let them know if I think it’s good enough to go. If not, if I can’t be myself out there, then I’m not going to be a liability.”

Manager Davey Johnson said he may hold him out anyway, with an off day on Monday, to allow him three full days of rest before the Nationals open a series with the White Sox at Nationals Park on Tuesday.

“Knowing Adam, no matter what he’s going to come in and say ‘I’m ready,’” Johnson said. “I might have to (overrule him). It’s kind of hard.”

The Nationals have not sent LaRoche for an MRI or any advanced testing of that nature, which indicates that they believe the issue is a muscular one. 

“If they thought it was in a spot where it could be more than that, I’m sure they would (send me),” LaRoche said. “That was the good news.”

Chad Tracy took LaRoche’s place at first base and in the No. 5 spot in the lineup on Saturday, giving the veteran a chance to get a few at-bats as a starter against Reds right-hander Mike Leake.

If the Reds relieve Leake with a left-hander, though, Johnson said he may swap Tracy out for the right-handed-hitting Tyler Moore.