Adam LaRoche expected to be Nationals’ first baseman next season

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We’ve heard plenty of speculation that the Nationals could emerge as a suitor for free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, but general manager Mike Rizzo is doing his best to downplay the situation.

The Nationals held a conference call earlier today to discuss the Gio Gonzalez deal. Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports that Rizzo was asked flatly whether Adam LaRoche would be the club’s first baseman next season. His answer? “That’s correct.”

LaRoche signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Nationals last offseason, but was only limited to 43 games this past season before undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in June. Nationals manager Davey Johnson told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post earlier this month that the 32-year-old is back to 100 percent.

We’ll have to take Rizzo’s word on the matter for now, but remember that the Nationals were heavily involved on Mark Buehrle before he signed a four-year, $58 million deal with the Marlins earlier this month. The newly-acquired Gonzalez is only expected to make a little over $4 million through the arbitration process, so there could be some room left in the budget. Oh, and don’t forget that Rizzo has quite a lengthy history of doing business with Scott Boras. Like it or not, the Nationals will be mentioned as a possibility until Fielder is signed, sealed and delivered somewhere.

Giancarlo Stanton to begin rehab assignment tonight

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Giancarlo Stanton will begin a minor league rehab assignment Monday with High-A Tampa. That according to the team’s Tweet to that effect.

Stanton has been on the injured list since April 1 due to a left biceps strain and a left shoulder strain sustained in what Aaron Boone called a “funky swing” at the time. Figure he’ll need a week or so of minor league games to get back to playing speed.

At the time Stanton’s injury seemed to be a catastrophic thing for the team’s chances, but after a sluggish start the Yankees have been on fire for weeks and now sit in first place in the American League East.

Still, getting Stanton back will be a big boost for the New York lineup. He’s hit a few homers in his time, I hear.