After losing Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett to injury last season and struggling to find a reliable option at the back end of the rotation, the Los Angeles Dodgers placed an emphasis on pitching, primarily starting, during the off-season. Part of that focus resulted in the signing of Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million contract with an option for 2015 that will vest if the right-hander reaches 180 innings in 2014.
Haren was sharp in his regular season debut, throwing six innings in the Dodgers’ 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. He allowed only one run on four hits and according to ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon, now feels as though he’s accomplished something:
I feel like part of the team, Haren said. I hadn’t done anything up until now.
A southern California native, Haren spoke of his excitement to pitch at Dodger Stadium as member for the home team, but the road has had its share of obstacles. Haren reported a tired arm following his third spring training start, which prevented him from traveling with the team to Australia for the Opening Series. Instead of joining his teammates overseas, Haren was relegated to rehab work and minor league starts where he struggled. The right-hander culminated his spring training schedule with a scheduled two innings against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday, which was another rough outing for the 33-year-old.
Wednesday’s start was a reminder of how effective Haren can be when he has reliable cutter working and is able to locate pitches. Haren retired the first nine batters he faced before Everth Cabrera broke up the no-hitter with a single in the fourth inning. With Clayton Kershaw unlikely to make another start for at least the next 3-4 weeks, it elevates Haren’s spot in the rotation to third. With Beckett’s status unknown once again due to a thumb injury, Haren’s ability to help stabilize the pitching rotation for the foreseeable future will be critical to the Dodgers maintaining success until they can get healthy.
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