LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche walked toward the batters box at Champion Stadium Thursday night, he glanced out at his friend Tim Hudson, on the mound for the Atlanta Braves.
LaRoche curled the fingers on one of his hands like a claw and flashed the sign, which signified a knuckleball, at Hudson.
“I didn’t think he would do it,” LaRoche said later. “I should’ve known better.”
Hudson gave him the knuckleball all right. A 47-mph pitch that swooped in like an eephus pitch.
LaRoche laughed. Hudson laughed. Even catcher Matt Pagnozzi and home plate umpire Sam Holbrook laughed.
“That was great,” LaRoche said.
Hudson and LaRoche know each other from their time together with the Braves and the two spend time together off the field. Their families are also close.
And for some reason, LaRoche said, Hudson always uses their spring training meetings to mess with the Nationals’ first baseman.
“That was the second time (he’s thrown me a knuckleball),” LaRoche said. “Another time, he went to switch balls and threw one right at my head. It went all the way to the backstop.
“I can count on something every time I face him in spring training. Another time I flew out deep and coming back he throws the rosin bag off my chest. He’s always picking on me.”
Hudson played it off.
“It’s a new pitch I’ve been working on,” he joked. “I was going to wait till the All-Star break to break it out, but it’s been so good lately that I’m going to start implementing it.”
It took LaRoche a minute to gather himself after the pitch was delivered. While the pitch was called a ball, both he and Hudson said it actually wasn’t a terrible pitch. Admittedly, he needed some time to refocus.
“It’s tough when the catcher and the umpire are both laughing too,” he said. “It’s hard to keep it together.”
LaRoche singled off Hudson later in the at-bat. That pleased his manager.
“It was nice to see Rochie hit a bullet in the hole the next pitch,” Davey Johnson said. “I like that better.”