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08/01/08 2:52 PM ET

Newly added LaRoche to start for Bucs

Infielder given third-base job; Bautista relegated to utility role

CHICAGO -- On Thursday, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington expressed uncertainty as to how playing time at third base would be divided between incumbent Jose Bautista and newcomer Andy LaRoche. It would be a decision that he and manager John Russell would have to discuss, Huntington said.

Apparently, the two didn't need long to make up their minds.

"Right now, LaRoche is our third baseman," Russell said before Friday's game. "We're going to see what he can do at third. We want to give him every opportunity to play and get comfortable in our system. He's going to be our third baseman now."

For Bautista, that means a few things. Obviously, his opportunities to start at third are now going to be limited. His versatility, though, has Russell anticipating the ability to use him in a utility role.

Bautista will give Russell another outfield option. And if necessary, he can play around at the other infield positions, as well.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Bautista said. "I'm just going to keep preparing myself, and hopefully I'm in the lineup as much as possible. I'm just going to keep doing my job."

Management has made it evident this season that they question Bautista's ability to be a fixture at third moving forward, as this isn't the first time this season that Bautista has dealt with a loss of playing time.

Though he's started 78 of the team's first 108 games, Bautista spent much of May in a platoon situation with Doug Mientkiewicz, who has made 27 starts at the hot corner this year. The two had been splitting playing time pretty evenly recently, as well.

Coming into Friday's contest, Bautista was hitting .251 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs. Only two everyday National League third basemen have lower batting averages.

As for LaRoche, the opportunity to be a starter is something he never got -- and wasn't likely to get anytime soon -- with the Dodgers. LaRoche had made just 12 starts at third for L.A. this season, one in which he has been hampered by a thumb injury and blocked by a handful of other third basemen.

As a result, he had been hoping for the opportunity to go elsewhere. The fact that it was to Pittsburgh, where his older brother, Adam, already plays, was an added bonus.

"Nothing against L.A., but I was the utility guy or the one just coming in to pinch-hit," said LaRoche, who arrived at Wrigley Field less than three hours before game time. "Coming here, I get the chance to be an everyday player. I'll get the chance to earn a spot and be an everyday player."

In 27 games with the Dodgers this season, LaRoche hit .203 with two homers and six RBIs.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.