Haren to Nats: “Keep this group together”

By Andrew Simon 

Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Marlins was Dan Haren’s final start of the season at Nationals Park. By his own admission, it probably was his last there, period, as a member of the Nationals.

Haren signed a one-year deal with Washington last offseason, and despite a second-half rebound, the overall results have been rocky. At 9-14 with a 4.87 ERA, the veteran right-hander admits, “I was part of the reason we were so many games down,” in the playoff race.

Yet even if Haren doesn’t return, he sees a bright future for the Nats — as long as they stay the course. In his opinion, the club shouldn’t take this year’s likely disappointing finish as a sign to make radical changes. He pointed to his last team, the Angels, who went 89-73 but missed the playoffs with Haren in 2012. An altered roster, including big free agent signing Josh Hamilton, was 76-78 going into Sunday.

“This area has a lot to look forward to,” Haren said. “I think last year in L.A., we won 89-90 games and they kind of blew up the team, and I think they’ve struggled most of the year and got on track late in the year. I think that was the wrong thing to do.

“I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them. But I think the most important thing is to keep this group together. This could be a building block. Last year they had a great year and this year we’ve shown a lot of fight here the last few months. I think as close as things could stay to the guys in this room, I think the better.”

That means keeping the roster largely intact. But, as Haren said, it’s also “top-down, manager-wise.”

The Nationals, of course, must find a replacement for the retiring Davey Johnson, who has voiced support for bench coach Randy Knorr, in addition to third base coach Trent Jewett. The organization also figures to consider outside candidates, but Haren thinks Knorr would be a good choice.

“Randy I think could step in and do a real good job,” Haren said. “I think the guys overall really like him. So it just kind of goes into the organization not really needing to do that much. We got off to a slow start, but I think we’ve learned a lot of things.”

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