"I'm sure he was getting sick of hearing it from me," LaRoche said. "He finally said, `I've got to put him out there and shut him up."
LaRoche, who has been bothered by ankle and shoulder injuries, delivered an RBI single in his first at-bat of the spring and also played solid defense at first base as a Nationals split squad defeated the New York Mets 8-2 Saturday.
Washington right-hander Chien-Ming Wang also made his first start of the spring, allowing two runs on three hits over two innings. He threw 43 pitches, 26 for strikes.
Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey had a rough outing, giving up five runs and eight hits in three innings. The good news, at least from Dickey's point of view, was that he was able to gather some information about the approach Nationals hitters were taking against him.
"I faced these guys so much during the regular season last year, and the year before, that they've got a pretty good idea of what they need to do to probably have success -- and I need to identify what that is," Dickey said. "I think I took a step in that direction today, so that was good. But certainly you'd like to have better results."
Wang breezed through the first of his two innings, but struggled in the second. He said his sinker dipped more than he wanted.
Johnson liked what he saw as Wang competes for the fifth spot in the rotation.
"How it was coming out of his hand, and the movement he was getting, it was fun to watch," Johnson said. "When you think of it, at the back end of a rotation having a Chien-Ming Wang, with his experience and what he's throwing now ..."
LaRoche, limited to only 43 games last season because of a torn labrum, had come to spring training hoping to get plenty of early playing time. His surgically repaired left shoulder was still a little sore, however and when he sustained a slightly sprained left ankle during a baserunning drill, he was sidelined for the start of spring.
Though he didn't have to make any hard throws Saturday, LaRoche said his shoulder feels fine. The big question was how he would feel running the bases and moving around in the field.
"It felt pretty good," he said. "Not great, but good enough. I hope it progresses every day for the next four or five days and hopefully get rid of it."
LaRoche will make the trip to Jupiter on Sunday when the Nationals face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Nationals OF Bryce Harper (left calf strain) is still a couple of days away from returning to the lineup. "He's probably waiting around the corner to tell me he's ready. I would say, `When I get clearance from the trainer, I want to see you go through a full workout, and then you'll get another day' and then you'll be ready for me." ... Nationals OF Rick Ankiel was scratched from the lineup because of a tight hamstring. ... Roger Bernadina started in left field for Washington against Detroit on Saturday despite having a sore right elbow. ... Danny Espinosa started at shortstop for Washington's other split squad against Detroit. The team has no plans to move Espinosa from second base, but Johnson said earlier this spring he wanted Espinosa -- who played short at Long Beach State -- to get some time there in case regular shortstop Ian Desmond gets hurt during the year. ... The Mets signed Kevin Mulvey to a minor league contract. Mulvey was a second-round pick by New York in 2006, but was traded to Minnesota as part of the Johan Santana trade in 2008. ... Mets CF Andres Torres, who had been bothered by a tight right glute muscle that kept him out the past two games, started and went hitless in three at-bats Saturday. ... Ike Davis and Omar Quintanilla each had two hits for the Mets.