VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Andy LaRoche is basically the same guy. Just because he's got a puffy white bandage wrapped around his right hand and thumb, doesn't mean he's any different. Maybe just a bit less capable.
"Opening jars is kind of tough," LaRoche joked. "Other than that, you can find a way to do things. It's just a lot tougher."
Right now, the only "things" he can do are non-baseball things. That won't change until he can remove his puffy white cast in two and a half weeks, and begin rehabbing his surgically repaired right thumb. Doctors reattached a ligament in the thumb on Monday, and predicted that he would need eight to 10 weeks to fully recover.
On his path back to health, LaRoche anticipates that hitting will prove much easier than throwing. As a right-handed batter, his thumb rests more or less idle when he grips a bat -- but there's no such convenience when he grips a ball.
"You don't realize how much you need your thumb," LaRoche said, "until you can't use it."
For now, though, he's worried mainly about his overall health. The throbbing pain in his hand has begun to subside, and slowly, he's beginning to sleep better at night.
"I guess it's as good as it can be coming out of surgery," LaRoche said. "Let the healing process begin."
His absence, along with the team's trip to China and injuries to starting infielders Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, has forced the Dodgers to rely on rookie and Minor Leaguer infielders in their recent Grapefruit League games. That should begin to change when utility infielder Tony Abreu returns from injury this weekend.
Abreu is expected to play in Saturday's game against the Nationals, after missing all but one other game this spring. He had an operation to repair a sports hernia back in October, and took a precautionary flight to Philadelphia on Wednesday after continuing to feel the surgery's lingering effects.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.