VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche arrived at Space Coast Stadium on Monday with a new look. He has a full beard and looks like he could be a regular on "Duck Dynasty."
LaRoche expects to have the new look for quite a while.
"I always let [the beard] out in the winter a little bit. I just didn't shave for a while. I didn't shave for a while longer and then never shaved," LaRoche said. "The crew I hang out [with during the offseason], I'm the odd man if I don't have a beard."
LaRoche hopes this year can be better than last. LaRoche had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2013, hitting .237 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs.
It didn't help that LaRoche lost 15 to 20 pounds during the season. It was believed, at first, that LaRoche was losing the weight because of the flu he caught right after the All-Star break. LaRoche later revealed that the weight loss was caused by the medication he is taking for attention deficit disorder (ADD). LaRoche was able to adjust the medication and gain some of the weight back.
"I probably still have five [more pounds] to go," LaRoche said. "Physically, I feel a lot better."
After the season, LaRoche underwent surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. LaRoche never had a problem with the elbow until the final two games of the season. He still has soreness in the elbow, but he expects to be ready by Opening Day.
"So far, so good. It gets a little sore from time to time, especially when I start to throw and hit a little more," LaRoche said.
LaRoche is familiar with new manager Matt Williams. When LaRoche played with the D-backs in 2010, Williams was the first-base coach. They were together one year, but LaRoche calls Williams one of the best coaches he ever had.
"A big part of it is because [Williams] was just out of the game. For whatever reason, those guys have a tendency to relate a little better," LaRoche said. "He has a great combination of being intense, as you guys know. He was the same way as a coach as he was when he played. I'm sure he will be the same as a manager. He wants to win. He is an intense guy, but he can be very calm at the same time when he needs to be. He has a knack for communicating with guys. He remembered how the game was. He has a good outlook on it."
Williams believes LaRoche, 34, is not on the downside of his career.
"He is too good a player," Williams said. "The question is, you look at Adam and say, 'Generally, he hasn't started the season well.' [Two years ago,] was kind of the opposite early on. Sometimes, there are years like that. There is no rhyme or reason for it, but I think he is healthy. I think he feels good. He will be a big part of it. We need him and he will play a lot over there [at first base]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.