PITTSBURGH - Andy LaRoche looked like he could barely stand up Monday night.
Yet, the Pirates third baseman was back in the lineup for the finale of a four-game series against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park. He had missed the previous three games because of the flu.
"The trainers told me I couldn't get any worse, so I'm playing," LaRoche said. "I don't feel the best but I'm sick of sitting out. If I'm not putting myself at risk and I'm not risking any of my teammates getting sick then I see no reason not to play."
The flu has become a problem in the Pirates' clubhouse in recent days.
Backup catcher Jason Jaramillo also has been unable to be play since the homestand started Friday. First baseman Steve Pearce and left fielder Lastings Milledge also have been sick, though they have been able to play.
Pearce said he would have normally sat out the games Saturday and Sunday against San Diego but felt compelled to play because first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones was sidelined by a strained right shoulder and second baseman Delwyn Young was unable to play because of lower back spasms.
"It's a case of where I had to play through it," Pearce said. "I was so sick [Sunday] that I was having a hard time even seeing the ball. It was tough but you do what you have to do to get through it."
Pearce said he was feeling much better. Milledge, too, said he was improving despite still having congestion.
"Part of being a professional baseball player is being ready to play every day," Milledge said. "We've had a lot of guys sick or hurt but I was fortunate enough that I was still able to at least get out there and play."
The Pirates medical staff does not believe the strain of flu is the swine flu. However, LaRoche did visit with an acquaintance in Houston during the Pirates' last road trip who had contracted the swine flu while on vacation in Mexico earlier in the summer.
Young was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 11, a bit of a surprise since there were indications over the weekend that his back problem might cause him to be limited to pinch-hitting duty for the remainder of the season.
"Delwyn felt it had loosened up to the point where he could bend down for ground balls again," Russell said. "We'll keep watching him, though."
Jones was able to play again after feeling no significant pain while taking batting practice in the indoor cages before the game. He admitted he is not 100 percent but said: "I'm good enough to play."
Reliever Joel Hanrahan played catch before the game and said he felt no pain in his elbow. He has not pitched since last Tuesday because of pain in the elbow but is hopeful of being available for game action in the next few days.
Yukio Hatoyama, the newly elected prime minister of Japan, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday night's games against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park. He is the first prime minister elected from the Democratic Party after winning the general election last month.
Hatoyama will be attending the G-20 Summit of world leaders that will be held in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday.