The Washington Nationals decided to place right-hander Dan Haren on the disabled list Sunday morning after a string of abysmal starts had left them, in the words of manager Davey Johnson, “a little concerned.”
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed the team’s plan to place Haren on the disabled list, but it was unclear at the outset what the specific ailment was that was sending him there.
Haren dealt with a back issue during the 2012 season and his hip has given him trouble before, too. He has been asked on multiple occasions about his health, and insisted he’s felt fine, in spite of his struggles.
“There’s aches and pains. Nothing I haven’t pitched through in the past,” Haren said on Saturday after he lasted just 3 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ 7-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
“Physically, I’m OK. I’ve been better, I’ve been worse, but it’s still no excuse for what’s gone on.”
Pitching coach Steve McCatty spoke Sunday morning about some of the mechanical issues he planned to work through with Haren before his next start, particularly how his arm can get “flat coming through” the zone, which allows hitters to see the ball better.
“We talk about getting the arm more through the zone and following through to the plate at a little better, higher angle, if you want to call it that,” McCatty said. “To follow the path of the arm to the plate, not side to side. When you open up, which he has a tendency because of his back and his hip, if you get flat you see the ball better. Then you’re breaking stuff’s not quite as sharp. That’s something we’re trying to work on.”
McCatty said he was unsure if Haren was dealing with any physical issues, and he did not know if the aforementioned tendency was a result of him compensating for previous injuries and falling into that habit.
Before it was known that Haren was heading to the disabled list, it sounded as though the Nationals may try to skip Haren’s next start and allow him a few extra days to work out some of his issues. McCatty said it depends on the specific pitcher whether or not that can be helpful.
“Sometimes it is (good) and sometimes it’s not,” McCatty said. “I’m sure mentally he’s a little frustrated with himself. It’s tough to do when it seems like nothing’s going right and you go out in the first inning and you give up a home run. You get a little deflated and you try to fight your way through. Sometimes to give somebody a little more time to work on stuff. Sometimes guys feel better if they just go out and fight through it.
“It just all depends on him. You’ve got to make sure that everything’s all right. I haven’t really had a chance to talk to him. We’ll just go out, as of this second, and plan on working on it and working on his mechanics.”
Throughout the season, which has toggled between adequate and disastrous for Haren, the right-hander has been a total pro with regard to accountability. Haren has stood at his locker after each difficult loss and answered every question asked of him.
And he’s also shown flashes of the three-time All-Star he is. But the inconsistency has perplexed everyone.
“It’s never easy to sit there and watch a guy who you know is a warrior, you goes out there and never says a word, never complains, and you know things aren’t going his way,” McCatty said. “It’s really tough. But all you continue to do is work on it. Work on it. Be in his corner. This guy pitched well, I mean, very, very good throughout his career.
“One of those things where when you start pressing yourself, maybe the tinkering is because he’s trying to do so well that every pitch is like changing something. Try this, try this. You’ve just got to stay the course. You’ve got to do what you did to get you to this point. He’s been a damn good pitcher. It’s just fighting through it. It’s not easy for him. It’s not easy for me. It’s not easy for any of us. I wish there was something I could just say ‘Oh there it is, that’s what it is.’”
“(The fact that he’s still sometimes able to have success shows you, when Jupiter’s aligned with Mars and it’s going well, he has the stuff to get people out and strike them out. But it’s being consistent, being able to repeat your mechanics all the time, and when you are struggling sometimes that’s not easy to do.”
The team has not announced the move that places Haren on the disabled list yet, and it is unclear who would replace him in the rotation when they do. Team radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes was the first to report the news. Johnson does not do a pre-game session with the general media on Sundays, but he announced the move to Slowes on their pre-game manager’s show.