Nationals: Adam LaRoche to return from DL Sunday; Zach Walters optioned to Triple-A

Chris Gardner

Adam LaRoche made two rehab starts in the Washington Nationals' system then joined the Nats in Pittsburgh today in anticipation of returning as soon as his 15-Day DL stint ends tomorrow. Zach Walters was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster.

In a great, wide-ranging interview with PennLive.com's Harrisburg Senators beat writer Geoff Morrow after a rehab start on Friday, Washington Nationals' first baseman Adam LaRoche said he thought he would be ready to return from the DL as soon as his 15-day stint was over on Sunday.

"'As far as the leg goes, [I was] moving on defense [at first base Friday], got to run the bases a little bit. Surprisingly it feels really good the last few days.'" - LaRoche to PennLive.com's Geoff Morrow

The Nats' 34-year-old middle of the order bat said the right quad which landed him on the disabled list felt fine after his second start in the Nationals' minor league system.

"'Feels good,'" LaRoche said. "'As far as the leg goes, [I was] moving on defense [at first base Friday], got to run the bases a little bit. Surprisingly it feels really good the last few days. I'm going to play here [today] and then probably talk to [Nationals general manager Mike] Rizzo after that and see if I'll meet the team in Pittsburgh [Sunday] or just meet the team back home [Monday].'"

Before Saturday night's game with the Pirates in PNC Park, several of the Nationals beat writers noted that LaRoche was already in Pittsburgh:

After the Nationals dropped their third straight to the Pirates and their fourth straight overall to fall a game below .500 at 24-25 on the year, they made the official announcement that LaRoche would return for the series finale in Pittsburgh:

Walters, 24, made a pinch hit appearances in Saturday night's loss, leaving him 6 for 33 in the majors this season (.182/.250/.455) with three home runs, five runs scored, three walks and 14 Ks in 26 games and 36 plate appearances with the Nationals.

Asked earlier today about which players were under consideration for a trip to Syracuse once LaRoche returned, Matt Williams talked about the difficult decision. Tyler Moore can help the Nationals off the bench, back up at first and also play left field. Sending Greg Dobbs down meant the possibility of losing the veteran bench bat the Nats picked up when the Marlins parted ways with him earlier this month.

"'There’s a lot of factors that will go into it,'" Williams told reporters including The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. "'Without going into any detail, it’s never easy to send somebody to the minor leagues. But Rochie is a very important part of our team, so that is the reality, so somebody is going to have to go.'"

Utlimately, the Nationals apparently decided to send their switch-hitting backup infielder down.

LaRoche's return will be a big one for the Nationals, who are struggling to score runs. Through 32 games and 133 plate appearances before the DL stint, LaRoche put up a .319/.421/.504 line with six doubles and five home runs.

• Note: If you didn't catch PennLive.com's Geoff Morrow's interview with LaRoche, it's well worth a read:

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