Dan Haren spent some time in manager Davey Johnson’s office on Sunday morning as the Washington Nationals’ management explained to the veteran right-hander that he was going to be placed on the disabled list. According to Johnson, Haren “wasn’t particularly pleased to go on the disabled list, but he knew it was probably the best thing.”
Asked what Haren’s injury was, Johnson said, “He’s had some trouble getting loose.”
When pressed, he expanded to say that stiffness the right-hander has felt the past few starts “may be a sign of tired arm or whatever.”
Haren said it’s nothing he hasn’t felt before and moved past, though he understood the team’s standpoint.
When asked what was landing him on the disabled list, Haren quipped: “I don’t know, what’d they say?”
“Well you know, my shoulder’s been bugging me the last two, three starts,” Haren said. “Nothing really major at all, nothing I haven’t pitched through in the past. I’m not really concerned about it, but they wanted me to take some time to get 100 percent, but definitely don’t want to use this as an excuse for the first three months of the season. That was more due to lack of execution, instead of an injury.”
Haren’s 6.15 ERA ranks as the worst mark in the major leagues and after his 3 1/3 inning performance on Saturday, hitters have an NL-highest .888 on-base plus slugging percentage against him. Only Joe Blanton from the Los Angeles Angels has a higher opponent-OPS.
On Sunday morning, pitching coach Steve McCatty talked about a few mechanical issues he’s noticed with Haren that are leading him to flatten out his pitches — which keeps them up in the zone and obviously hittable.
Haren will go for an MRI on Monday or Tuesday to determine the root of the stiffness he said has also cropped up between innings and between starts, though it sounds as though it would be a surprise if they found anything significantly wrong.
If that is the case, the time on the disabled list will give Haren a chance to perhaps work through some of those issues and try to right himself. The Nationals signed him for $13 million this offseason in hopes he would be one of the best No. 5 starters in baseball. That outcome has not materialized.
Still, Haren said he may have preferred to continue pitching through the stiffness and the issues to try and find his way out.
“I haven’t really thought about that, (but) I think I would’ve rather just keep pitching,” he said. “From a team standpoint, we talked it over this morning for a while, and they want me to get back to 100 percent. That said, a lot of starting pitchers, most starting pitchers, aren’t pitching at 100 percent. There’s always some dings, some aches and pains. In my case they wanted to give me some time, so get my shoulder loosened up a bit I guess.
“I’ve tried a lot of things this year, and definitely not feeling that great doesn’t help, but it’s like I said when I first started it was a lack of execution, not anything physical. So I have to get back to doing what I do best.”
As for what the Nationals will do to replace him in their rotation, an offday on Monday affords them a slight bit of leeway. The Nationals can skip Haren’s next turn, which would’ve come up on Friday, and pitch Ross Detwiler on regular rest. But they’d need a starter for Saturday, instead.
Johnson said the team won’t make a decision on how they’ll handle Haren’s spot in the rotation until Tuesday. It’s likely they’ll call up a reliever in the meantime to give them an extra arm and fill the spot on the roster.
Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf could be a candidate for the start, but that seems somewhat unlikely as Johnson said he’d prefer to keep him as the long man in the bullpen — rather than call up a younger starting pitcher and force them into a long relief role.
When it comes to the minor leagues, the Nationals could give Nate Karns another shot, particularly as he’s on their 40-man roster, or they could turn to one of their other prospects, like right-hander Taylor Jordan who is tearing up the Eastern League.
Jordan is scheduled to pitch next on Monday, that would mean he’d be on regular rest to start on Saturday.
The team sees enough options in the minor leagues, however, that Johnson even said he doubts the team would make a push to trade for a starter before the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t think so,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a couple guys we’re real high on that we may give an opportunity up here.”