The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with right-hander Dan Haren on Tuesday on a one-year, $13 million deal, but it was contingent upon the 32-year-old passing a physical. That was completed on Friday and Haren took some time to discuss his one-year deal with the Nationals.
Here are some of the highlights:
On how he chose the Nationals: “I did have quite a few other choices but the Nationals just kind of fit for me. Although it’s the east coast and I’ve primarily stayed on the west coast my entire career, when I was leading up to be traded or was traded and then didn’t get traded (to the Cubs earlier this offseason), I had kind of sold my family and myself on the possibility of moving east. We were all kind of ready for it and when the Nationals showed some interest, I had a lot of interest from different teams, but the momentum started picking up there Sunday or Monday and the Nationals just kind of fit for me.
“Obviously the club they have, winning close to 100 games last year with the majority of people coming back, I think I just fit well with the rotation. Being able to eat innings and give the team a chance every time out. With the offense that we have, we have a tremendous defense as well, great bullpen, I think we can only improve on what the Nationals did last year.”
On his health, which included concerns about his back and his hip: “In regards to my health, I know it was a question mark for a lot of people. If it makes anyone feel better, there were lots of teams interested in my services. I obviously passed the physical. I feel great right now. I understand that teams had concerns otherwise I probably would’ve gotten a three or a four-year deal, but that said, I think I have a lot to prove this year.
“(I’m) very confident I’m going to stay healthy. I feel great right now. Probably going to start throwing here in a week. I’ve done some things that were recommended to me last year, losing a little bit of weight, doing some core exercises, gaining some flexibility, all things I’ve done already and will continue to do leading up to spring training and I’m 100 percent confident that I’ll be healthy this year and be able to contribute on a high level.”
On if his hip issue (which he’s had his whole career) and his back issue (which landed him on the DL in 2012 for 18 days) were related: “I was not told they were connected in any way. Like you guys know, I’ve never missed a day for any hip issue. I’m not a doctor reading MRIs or seeing what exactly it looks like, but, with my hip there were times it’d get a little bit sore and stuff like that but it’s just been a management thing. I have to just take care of it. It’s never caused me to miss time and I’m sure it won’t cause me to miss any time this year.
“As for my back, last year I think I missed 18 days with some lower back stiffness. Came back after that and mechanically I was a little out of whack. I fell into some bad habits but I felt physically good. And then toward the end of the year, late Aug. into Sept. I started feeling really good. My mechanics started coming back and I had a lot more success. I definitely finished up last year the way I expected the whole year to go. But that said, I’m sure coming into this year, I’ll get off to a little better start. I’ve always been known to start off pretty fast so I’m expecting that this year.”
On if he was surprised the hip issue scared teams off since he’s always pitched with it: “It was frustrating for me. It’s tough for someone to deal with so many injury questions on something that I’ve never missed a day for, not even getting pushed back from a start in 10 years for it. But I don’t know what MRIs say. I don’t know how I test out. It was definitely a little bit frustrating. That said, there was plenty of interest in me. A lot of my medical stuff was out there and there was still tons of interest.
When the Nationals really showed interest, I was really zeroed in on them and we got — from the time they showed some interest to the time an agreement was made was really not that much time. We really got it done fast. I just wanted to have a home and be able to focus on getting ready for the season rather than deciding on where I wanted to play. I’m glad it’s all over with and I feel good where I am.”
On if he knows any of the Nationals’ stable of starting pitchers: “I kind of know everybody from the outside looking in. I think I faced (Jordan) Zimmermann either last year or two years ago when the Nationals came to Anaheim in interleague. With (Stephen) Strasburg, his pitching coach at San Diego State University was the best man at my wedding. So I’ve kind of always followed Strasburg his way through. Even when he came up I was in the NL in AZ so I always followed him. Gio (Gonzalez) obviously saw him pitch a bunch with the A’s and he’s got tremendous stuff, so it’s really an exciting rotation to be a part of. I’ve been a part of some good ones, including last year. We didn’t quite live up to expectations but this year’s going to be fun for the team and for the fans especially.”
On what kinds of other offers he had: “I don’t really want to get into dollars and cents. There was definitely a couple that were right at (what the Nationals offered). I didn’t really push teams too far. I think maybe I could’ve held out a few days longer or even held out till now. I just thought that if the Nationals were competitive with what other teams were offering, the Nationals were just a better fit for me.
“There was quite a few offers and a couple offers from the west coast which, my family would’ve probably liked a little more because I would’ve been closer to home, but just the team the Nationals have, I sat down with my wife, talked about it a lot and she got on board. After going out to Washington and seeing the stadium, the city, reporting back to her, she’s really excited to come out and be there for opening day and quite a bit of the year this year. It’s going to be a little adventure for the family but we have really high expectations for the team so it’s always fun, winning.”
On if he’s comfortable assuming a leadership role as a veteran on the staff: “Well I’ll do all I can. I’m pretty open with talking to guys, even with teams I’ve been on in the past. I think everyone feels comfortable talking to me. I think this is my fifth team, it’s going to take time. I’m not going to really be myself right when I get to spring training. It takes time to learn guys, whether it be sense of humors or how you talk to different guys, how you get through to guys. It’s going to take a little bit of time but I’m sure we’ll gel together quickly.
“On teams that I’ve been on in the past, I think it’s important for the starting staff, those five guys, to be close. To be each others No. 1 fans when they’re out there, to be on the bench pulling for the guy and it’s fun when you have a cohesive unit like that and you can turn the rotation over with a lot of success. Rotations like this, the hope is that you don’t get into too many long losing streaks because any particular guy can be the stopper and on the flip side of that, when guys get going, I’m sure there’ll be quite a few nice long winning streaks. You put all those things together and the expectations are definitely high.”
On if it’s a point of pride that he’s a workhorse and he doesn’t miss starts usually: ”Yeah it is. Looking back to last year, I really shouldn’t have went on the DL. I didn’t even really need to. It was kind of, not that I was talked into it, but it was kind of a group decision. I went on it around the All-Star break so I could miss the least amount of time, have the four days of the All-Star break count. I remember throwing a bullpen while I was on the DL, I wanted to come back on the 15th day but they wanted me to pitch in a minor league game to get ready. I’m going to listen to my boss so I went to a minor league game and came back on the 18th day instead.
“It was never like a painful thing where I had so much pain. I had to knock some stiffness and inflammation out. I got it knocked out within a day or two and I finished off the year good. I got into some really bad mechanical things just pitching through a little stiffness and it took me a while but toward the end of the year started feeling really good. I pitched well for us down the stretch when we were making a playoff run. Unfortunately we came up short and I had to move on from the Angels. I had a great time there but I’m happy where I am now.”