By Ian Steele 3-5-2013
In spring training, it’s not about the stats. It’s about the stuff.
Dan Haren’s “stuff” consisted of strictly a fastball and a cutter in a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros today in Melbourne, Florida.
“I try not to dwell too much on the results of spring training,” Haren told WEBN Boston. “If I come out and strike out ten guys, what does that earn me?”
The three-time All-Star struck out two in three full innings during his second start with Washington. This winter he signed a one-year, $13 million contract with the Nationals.
Previously with the Los Angeles Angels, the right-handed starter specialized in off-speed pitches, having a fastball peaking around 88 mph. The ten-year major leaguer is currently working on developing a cutter, and pitching to right handed hitters.
“I barely used my cutter last year. Today I went fastball-cutter, fastball-cutter. It’s a tough pitch to learn and got hit a few times. I worked it more to the inside of the plate against righties, which is another thing I’m really focused on this spring.”
Haren ended last season on the disabled list and, eventually, out of LA, with hip and back injuries. This, and an inflated 4.33 ERA (his worst since 2004) led the Halos to opt out of his contract.
Transitioning from the west coast to the nation’s capital off an injury takes time that Haren is willing to give. In two starts this spring, Haren is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
A tandem of catchers, Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos, has aided the transition. Their main task in spring training is building a report with the rotation. Haren got his first game action working with Ramos today.
“He seemed like he’s been catching for a while back there. He wasn’t stabbing at balls. He’s a nice big target. I threw to Suzuki last time. It’s good to familiarize ourselves with each other.”
“I’m big on that,” Suzuki said. “The closer you get as teammates, especially with a catcher and a pitcher having a close relationship, it all comes together. Knowing what pitch to call, how to calm a guy down.”
Haren wants to stay healthy and remain a dependable starter for his new team. So he has made a new commitment to taking care of his body outside game days.
“I’m just trying to build up my arm strength. You build endurance through pushing yourself,” Haren said. “I’m trying to really take care of myself in between starts and in preparation and recovery.
“I’m going to be out there regardless of how I feel. Do I feel great? Good? Real good?”
The diagnoses didn’t seem to matter.
He promised “I’ll be out there.”