Dan Haren took the mound Saturday without the stress of his vesting option hanging over his head. The veteran right-hander got that out of the way when he threw seven strong innings against the San Francisco Giants Monday.
However, Saturday may still have been a test of sorts for Haren, who appears to have an inside track to be the Dodgers’ fourth starter in the postseason. Manager Don Mattingly indicated prior to his start that Haren wouldn’t be in for a long night of work.
Haren threw five innings and exited with the Dodgers trailing, however they took the lead prior to the sixth inning beginning, which left the right-hander in line for his 14th win this season. The Dodgers eventually blew their lead and played into the 12th inning before winning on a wild pitch.
According to the OC Register’s Pedro Moura, by the time reporters made their way into the clubhouse, Haren had departed but left a note:
Starter Dan Haren exited before reporters arrived in clubhouse, but he left a statement on his locker. Veteran move. pic.twitter.com/W5XzrruuDJ
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) September 28, 2014
Aware of Haren’s departure, A.J. Ellis stepped in and acted as though he was the starter, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
I’m sharp. My stuff’s sharp right now. I’m pitching well,'” said Ellis — as Haren. “I’ve got a great catcher behind the plate, putting down the right fingers. He’s got a good game plan, and I think the two of us, we’re ready to take on any team that comes up.”
After enduring a five-game losing streak, Haren bounced back to go 5-2 in his next 10 starts. His resurgence came at a key point for the Dodgers as Zack Greinke battled elbow issues, Hyun-Jin Ryu went down with shoulder irritation, and Roberto Hernandez tailed off.
While Haren may not be needed in the NLDS, he would be in the NLCS, should the Dodgers advance.