- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2013

LAKELAND, Fla. — A lot of this spring for Dan Haren is about acclimating himself and adjusting to new things. A new team, new facilities, a new league and new catchers. Then there are the new things he’s trying to add to a repertoire that has made him one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the major leagues over the course of his career.

Haren has often said this spring that he is a work in progress. But he made another stride Sunday, throwing 61 pitches in four innings in the Nationals’ 2-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers, and working inside to right-handed hitters more often.

“It’s just something I’ve got to work on,” Haren said, ticking off some of his results while doing so Sunday: a hit by Jhonny Peralta, but outs from Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.

Wilson Ramos caught Haren on Sunday and as the two get to know each other, Haren noticed that Ramos likes to call inside fastballs often. That helped him continue to work on that aspect of his game.

“There would be games that would go by [last year] where I wouldn’t throw anything inside to righties,” Haren said. “So it’s just a matter of keeping hitters honest, being able to work both sides of the plate. I was stubborn in the past. I felt like I’d want them to beat me out over the plate — but I was getting beat out over the plate, so I had to make adjustments.

“I feel like it’s opening up the outside part of the plate for me a little bit. If you move guys’ feet, it always helps. If you move a batter’s feet in that at-bat, a lot of times you’re going to have success. So it’s just about making hitters uncomfortable, really.”

Haren is big on communication between he and his catcher, so he’s been working at building his relationship with Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. If Ramos is catching him in his start, he’s asked Suzuki to catch his bullpen and vice-versa. And the chatter between innings has been important, too.

“Everything he throws is moving around,” Ramos said. “He’s got good command and a lot of experience. He throws pretty good to both sides of the plate. Every pitch, any count. Those pitches, like Livan Hernandez: on both sides of the plate, good command, corners, in and out. He’s very good when I’m behind the plate and I put something down and you’re sure he will throw that pitch.”

Detwiler tosses four scoreless in WBC

Nationals manager Davey Johnson fought off sleep well past 11 p.m. on the East Coast on Saturday night to watch Ross Detwiler pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

He was rewarded for his efforts when the Nationals left-hander turned in a tremendous four-inning performance to help the U.S. beat Italy and set up a winner-take-all showdown with Canada on Sunday afternoon.

“He looked great,” Johnson said Sunday morning. “I knew he was going to do good. That was a big shot in the arm for their bullpen.”

In four innings, Detwiler allowed just one hit and struck out three. He looked strong, throwing 51 pitches (36 strikes) and allowing the U.S. relievers to be saved for Sunday’s game.

Detwiler is at his best when he was getting ground-ball outs, and he did that Saturday, with the help of an impressive play by second baseman Brandon Phillips.

Around the horn

Wilson Ramos caught five innings Sunday, the most he has caught in a game since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee in May. Ramos’ rehab is going well and he felt strong enough after the fifth inning to go back out for the sixth, but the Nationals are building him up slowly. … The information the Nationals have on the upper right leg tightness Nate Karns has been experiencing was sent for a second opinion, and the right-hander was held off from his planned side session Sunday.

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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