Results tagged ‘ Dan Haren ’

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.”

Which Nats players could go after 2013?

After the 2013 season comes to an end, the Nationals are likely to make changes  to improve the club for next season. Here are the current Nationals who may not be with the club next year.       

OF Roger Bernadina: As one person put it, “[Bernadina] has been a disappointment this year.” He not only has problems swinging the bat, but Bernadina has made some fundamental mistakes on the bases. As one evaluator put it, “[general manager Mike] Rizzo has never been a fan of Bernadina’s.”

Bernadina is arbration eligible after this season and there is a good chance he will be non-tendered.

2B Danny Espinosa: Shoulder and wrist injuries are the reasons Espinosa is having his worst year in 2013.  If he comes back to the big leagues for Washington, he most likely will be a reserve. He could be an everyday player elsewhere. He must cut down on the strikeouts to become an everyday player again.

RHP Dan Haren: Despite pitching well in the last month or so, Haren doesn’t think he will be back with the Nationals next year because of the season he has had, overall. He is 7-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 21 starts. The Nationals signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal to be one of their five starters this year.

1B Adam LaRoche: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is arguably having his worst year defensively, with a team-leading 17 errors. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. He is still having throwing issues because of the surgery he had on his right shoulder. In fact in early June, Zimmerman said he expects the shoulder to be in rehab mode for the rest of the season, but it will not keep him out of the lineup. It would not be surprising if the Nationals decided to move Zimmerman from third to first base as early as September. That could mean trading LaRoche to make room for Zimmerman at the position.

OF Denard Span: The Nationals thought he would be their ideal leadoff man after they acquired him from the Twins for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Entering Tuesday’s action against the Giants, Span is hitting .263 with a .312 on-base percentage. Even worst, he has a .167 batting average against left-handers. It’s not known if Span will get another chance next season.

Brian Goodwin is not ready to take over center fielder. The Nationals could try to acquire a center fielder this offseason. For example, Shin-Soo Choo is a free agent after the season. He currently has a .409 on-base percentage with the Reds.

C Kurt Suzuki: Most of the playing time behind the plate has gone to Wilson Ramos, so it is doubtful Suzuki will have his option vested for 2014. The Nationals have a plethora of quality catchers in the farm system, so it looks like Suzuki will take his services elsewhere after next season.

INF Chad Tracy: The leader of the Goon Squad, Tracy is not having a productive season like he did last year. Entering Tuesday’s action against the Giants, Tracy is 18-for-102 [.176] with three home runs six RBIs. He is not the only one who is not producing of the bench. The bench is one of the reasons the Nationals have been inconsistent this season.

A look at Dan Haren’s resurgence

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — It took four months and a stint on the disabled list, but the Nationals finally seem to have found the Dan Haren they thought they were getting for a one-year, $13 million contract this winter.

The veteran right-hander went 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA in his first 15 starts through June 22, a performance that he believes left him, “a bad start of two away from getting released.” Then he went on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and returned July 8 as a new pitcher.

Haren held the Phillies to two runs on four hits over seven innings in Friday’s win over the Phillies, his third straight victory. In six starts since his DL stint, he has a 2.43 ERA.

“This is definitely more like it,” Haren said. “I felt really good out there today. Really comfortable. The ball was moving pretty good. And obviously getting all the runs made it pretty easy. It’s just kind of unfortunate that it didn’t start off like this, but at least I’m showing that’s in there.”

The question facing Haren and the Nats is, why the sudden turnaround? And can it continue for the rest of the season?

The obvious explanation is that Haren is healthier now. Manager Davey Johnson said Friday that he pitched through some arm problems during the first half of the season. But Haren continues to insist that he had no physical ailment before going on the DL, only that, “Mentally I was pretty messed up.” Having a couple of weeks off might have given Haren a needed opportunity to step back, regroup and catch his breath, but it wouldn’t seem to account for his massive jump in performance. If his arm is any stronger, it hasn’t been reflected in his velocity.

After Friday’s start, Haren gave a lot of the credit to his improved ability to keep the ball down, especially with his splitter. He had surrendered a whopping 19 home runs in his first 15 outings but only two since, and both of those came in his one poor post-DL start, July 22 against the Pirates.

Haren has worked on a new grip for the split, in an effort to slow down the pitch and gain greater separation from his fastball. It appears to have worked. According to data from brooksbaseball.net, Haren’s splitter velocity has dropped significantly over the past two months. He was throwing the pitch in the 84-86 mph range early in the season; on Friday, it averaged 82.3 mph. Along with that, the data shows that since Haren came off the DL, batters are swinging at the splitter at about the same rate but putting it in play much less.

According to Haren, the key has been both the pitch itself and his concerted effort to keep the ball down in crucial situations, to be, “a little more concerned with location, rather than just concerned with throwing strikes.”

“My split has been really good since coming off the DL, but really it’s just keeping the ball down,” Haren said. “I really focus on that, trying to keep the ball in the ballpark. I mean, the home runs really burned me all year.”

As Haren admitted, there probably is some good luck involved as well, just as there probably was some bad luck involved in his earlier struggles. His opponents’ batting average on balls in play was .333 before his DL stint and .267 since, which could indicate weaker contact, but also more batted balls finding their way to Nats fielders. Some fly balls that barely were clearing the fence before might be staying in the yard now.

There also is the issue of who Haren has faced. Since returning, he has seen the Phillies twice, plus the Brewers, Marlins, Mets and Pirates. All of those clubs rank in the bottom half of the Majors in runs scored, batting average and OPS.

Haren’s next scheduled start is Thursday against the Giants, another weaker offensive club, so he’ll have a good chance to continue his surge.

Nats need to make improvements

WASHINGTON  — Entering Tuesday action, the Nationals were 54-58, 13 ½ games behind the Braves in the National League East and seven games behind the Reds in the Wild Card race. While manager Davey Johnson continues to have a positive attitude about his team, it’s pretty clear why the Nationals may not play in the postseason this year.

They rank near the bottom in offense and defense. They have also had their share of injuries. The worst was Bryce Harper, who missed more than a month of action because of a left knee injury.

“All the little things add up and they can affect your performance,” Johnson said. “It’s my job to stay positive and hope, at some point, we get it all going.”

What improvements should the Nationals make to get better? They need a leadoff hitter. Center fielder Denard Span has hit first for most of the season, and he is hitting .251 with a .310 on-base percentage at the top spot.

Ryan Zimmerman is arguably having his worst year defensively, with a team-leading 17 errors. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. He is still having throwing issues because of the surgery he had on his right shoulder. In fact in early June, Zimmerman said he expects the shoulder to be in rehab mode for the rest of the season, but it will not keep him out of the lineup.

Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last October. While there wasn’t any labrum or rotator cuff damage, Zimmerman needed to have his AC joint fixed, and the surgery revealed the injury to be more serious than anticipated.

It would not be surprising if the Nationals decided to move Zimmerman from third to first base in the future. That could possibly mean trading first baseman Adam LaRoche to make room for Zimmerman.

Asked if Zimmerman needed to play a different position, Johnson said, “With the work he is putting in, I thought it’d take until June. Obviously, it has taken longer. If you see him throw early [during batting practice], he throws deeper and throws the ball on the line.

“I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. I see him throw pretty good, and then in the game, he will want to get a lot of air under it. If that doesn’t get better, obviously, it’s not a good spot for him to be in. At one time, he had a cannon, and we are all waiting for him to come back. I think it’s more mental and not trusting it and cutting it lose. I see him working, and he throws the ball pretty good.”

The bench was one reason the Nationals won the division title last year.  This year, not one reserve is hitting above .250 or has provided the pop off the bench. Before the Trade Deadline, the Nationals made an attempt to acquire veteran players for the bench. They were able acquire Scott Hairston from the Cubs, but since he has been in Washington, Hairston has played only against left-handed pitching.

The Nationals may need to look for two starting pitchers. Right-hander Dan Haren said recently he most likely will not be coming back because he has not lived up to expectations. Left-hander Ross Detwiler has missed most of the season because of a back injury. It’s not known if he will be healthy for next year.

The Nationals have a lot of work to do after the season comes to an end.

Haren: ‘My heart says I probably won’t be back’

MILWAUKEE — Nationals right-hander Dan Haren has been feeling comfortable on the mound lately. Since coming off the disabled list on July 8, Haren is 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 30 innings.

“In the last few weeks, I have been more myself,” Haren said. “The city has been good. I’ve enjoyed my time in D.C. I enjoy the history. I’ve walked around D.C. a few times just to take it all in. It has been nice.”

Despite pitching well in the last month, Haren doesn’t think he will be back with the Nationals next year because of the season he has had, overall. He is 6-11 with a 5.14 ERA in 20 starts. The Nationals signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal to be one of their five starters.

“My heart says I probably won’t be back,” Haren said. “I haven’t lived up to what I was paid to do and what I came here to accomplish, despite the last two or three weeks. The majority of the season has been a struggle for me. Even if I wanted to come back — it has been a tough year. I haven’t lived up to the billing so far. I don’t know what next year is going to bring.”

With the way the year has gone, Haren believes his options will be somewhat limited for next year. He has the desire to play again next year, but “I have contemplated going home and being home because of how much I miss my family,” he said.

After beating the Brewers on Saturday, Haren said he has struggled off the field, as well. He acknowledged that he misses his wife, Jessica, and their two kids, who live in Southern California. Haren said he has been lucky that has played for teams near his home.

“I know the fans don’t care. But we’re humans, too. I have two little kids and I see them once every month and a half or so. It has been really hard. I’ve been fortunate to play on the West Coast just by being traded to a couple of teams. I would be close to home.

“When I was deciding which teams to come to this offseason, the Nationals had everything I wanted in a team. I wanted to come out here and give it a shot on the East Coast.”

Dan Haren’s home run woes

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

With the Nationals’ 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, right-hander Dan Haren fell to 4-11 on the season. His ERA is among the highest in the National League. He hasn’t won a game since May 9.

The reason? Simple: Haren is getting beat by the long ball.

He gave up a pair of two-run homers to Andrew McCutchen in Monday’s loss, one in the first inning and another in the third. He has now allowed 21 home runs in 18 starts, a career-worst average of 1.93 dingers per nine innings. His previous worst was 1.4 per nine innings.

“That’s kind of been the story of the year for me: Every mistake I’ve made, I’ve paid the price for it,” he said. “If I could take those two pitches back, things would be a lot different. But the fact of the matter is I can’t.”

Haren has watched more balls clear the fence this season than all but four Major League starters, and he’s already surpassed his home run allowance for the entire 2011 season (20). Of his 63 earned runs this season, 33 have come on home runs.

But if you forget about his astronomical home run numbers for a minute, Haren actually isn’t having that bad of a season. He’s striking out more batters than usual, and walking fewer. In fact, if Haren was allowing a career-norm 1.1 homers per nine innings this season instead of 1.93, he would have given up 12 homers instead of 21. His ERA would probably be in the mid-fours instead of the high-fives.

“I’m able to get strikeouts, I’m not walking too many guys, but the home runs have just killed me,” he said. “A very high percentage of the runs I’ve given up this year have been from the home run. Just not able to minimize it. When I’ve been successful this year, I’ve been able to keep the ball down and get the ball on the ground, but [I’m] just giving up way too many home runs.”

Rizzo believes Harper, Ramos will help offense

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline coming up on July 31, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals’ top priority is getting outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos healthy and contributing to the offense, which is one of the lowest scoring in the Major Leagues.

Harper, who is on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, is expected to rejoin the Nationals next week against the Brewers. Ramos is close to a rehab assignment, according to manager Davey Johnson.

“We would like to see a big left-handed bat. His name is Harper and he is on the horizon,” Rizzo said.  “And we would like to get a hitting catcher named Ramos. He is on the horizon. And [we really want to] gauge and see what a fully healthy lineup looks like. Two of our main cogs have been out for an extended period. We haven’t had our lineup together since April 14. So we are getting players more and more healthy.

“Hopefully, everyone will be healthy at the same time. We’ll see what the lineup can do when we have all our players playing and everyone is starting to hit on all cylinders — really gauge where we are at.”

With right-hander Dan Haren on the 15-day disabled list, will the Nationals look for another starting pitcher before the deadline? Rizzo said the right-hander has to get healthy first.

“First of all, we have to get him healthy and see where he is at and we’ll evaluate a healthy Dan Haren and make our decision from there,” Rizzo said. “Like any other part of the roster, we want to see him at 100 percent, and I would gauge where we are at from there.”

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