LaRoche arrives at Nationals camp early

LaRoche arrives at Nationals camp early

VIERA, Fla. -- Position players are not expected to report to Spring Training until Thursday, but first baseman Adam LaRoche arrived Monday morning and was hitting in the batting cage.

LaRoche, who missed most of last season because of a left shoulder injury, said he is close to being 100 percent. The key will be how well he can throw the baseball and how much power he has in his swing. LaRoche hit only three home runs in 43 games in 2011.

"By the end of camp, it's going to be really good swinging the bat, and I think throwing will eventually come," LaRoche said. "The problem last year, it wasn't just the throwing. ... When I had to ... make the hard throw, it would hurt two to three days. If I could coast through a season and just flip the ball around, it wouldn't be as big of an issue. Now ... it's nice to know that I can let it loose if I have to and I don't have to pay for it in the next couple of days."

During the offseason, the Nationals tried to sign first baseman Prince Fielder, who ended up signing a nine-year deal with the Tigers. LaRoche said he understood why the Nationals would want a power hitter like Fielder on their roster.

"I was never upset about it," LaRoche said. "If anything, I have respect for this team for trying to make us better everywhere they can. ... I think it shows the direction they are trying to go. [They are saying], 'Hey, we'll do whatever we can possibly do.' And if you get a player like that and he is a game changer for the long term, I totally would have understood it. I'm glad it didn't' work out. I'm glad to be back here, I love these guys, I'm looking forward to playing a full season this year and being a part of it."