Commentary

Rough welcome for Dan Haren

The Halos' new starter left his first game as Angel after a shot to the arm

Updated: July 27, 2010, 9:46 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Dan Haren had a tan bandage wrapped tightly around his right forearm, a rather drab souvenir from his first start with the Los Angeles Angels. He probably would have preferred a game ball.

Then again, had Kevin Youkilis' liner struck him a few inches higher up, in the elbow area, Haren's season with the Angels might have been reduced to the 24 hours leading up to that moment. The Angels' postseason hopes might have gone with it.

Angels orthopedist Lewis Yocum will examine Haren again Tuesday, but it looks as if he escaped with a painful bruise. That's not to discount the injury, which knocked Haren out of the game with two out in the fifth. Haren still had tightness and soreness in his arm and it's entirely possible he'll miss at least his next start, scheduled for Saturday. These days, every game the Angels play is crucial as they fight to remain relevant.

Dan Haren
AP Photo/Alex GallardoDan Haren would have liked his first start in an Angels uniform be a bit less painful, but it could have been worse.

Maybe that's why Angels manager Mike Scioscia became testy when he was asked for his spot assessment of Haren's chances of making his next start.

"Say right now? If I went to 18 years of medical school and evaluated him, I'd give you an answer," Scioscia said. "Sometimes, these things heal quickly. It doesn't seem like it got much of the bone. It looks like it was soft tissue, but I'll let Dr. Yocum and the medical staff determine what the extent might be."

Haren seemed relieved, not just to have avoided a serious injury, but to have been traded out of the broken-down car in the desert called the Arizona Diamondbacks. He arrived in Orange County at 9 p.m. Sunday, hours before the Angels' charter flight from Texas touched down. He was already loving the atmosphere. First-pitch temperature was 67 degrees and the Angels and Red Sox were playing meaningful games, at least for now.

The fact Boston won 6-3 made the Angels' upcoming games look slightly less relevant.

"Today was the most relaxing day I've had in a while. Going through the rumors and stuff was kind of exhausting," Haren said. "It just kind of wore on me and I was just glad it was over, coming here especially. I wish it would have been a better result today, but good things are going to come, I'm sure."

Haren might want to check the Angels' recent results. They have lost five of their past six games and now are 7½ games out of first place. They slipped into a third-place tie with Haren's old club, the Oakland A's, a team with a $58 million payroll.

But Haren didn't get much time to reacquaint himself with Southern California. He knew about the trade just as the Arizona Diamondbacks' 10-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants was wrapping up Sunday afternoon and he was able to catch a flight to Southern California that evening.

The Angels wouldn't arrive until after midnight, since they played a night game in Texas.

Because it was Haren's regular day to pitch, the Angels slotted him into the rotation and moved Joel Pineiro's start back two days. Haren arrived at Angel Stadium and was called into a meeting in Scioscia's office with the Angels' three catchers and pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Everybody had time to introduce themselves, then they got down to business. Jeff Mathis was in charge of putting the Angels' scouting report into action. After all, Haren's last day in the American League was in September 2007, though he did face the Red Sox about six weeks ago in interleague play.

Butcher planned to spend the start acquainting himself with Haren's mechanics.

"He's a guy who's been pretty consistent with his delivery. He's a low-walk, high-punchout guy," Butcher said. "I think he's pretty in touch with what he wants to do. I have a pretty vivid picture of how he pitches anyway from a mechanical standpoint. I'm just going to sit back and let him do his thing."

The Red Sox are second in the AL in runs scored, so this wasn't the softest re-entry into the tougher league. Haren was about as good as the Angels thought he would be -- he gave up two runs, one of them on a David Ortiz home run that eked into that little right-field corner (about a 335-foot shot). Then, Youkilis' ball ricocheted off his arm.

It was reminiscent of the Angels debut of another highly touted acquisition. On Opening Day in 1999, Mo Vaughn -- a few months removed from signing a six-year, $80 million free-agent deal -- was chasing a foul pop-up when he fell down the steps of the visitors dugout and badly sprained his ankle. The year before, Vaughn hit .337. That year, he batted .281.

Just because Monday didn't go well doesn't mean the Haren trade was a loser, of course. It may have seemed hasty, since the Angels were never rumored to be in pursuit. But they had scouts on Haren for weeks.

General manager Tony Reagins said he also looked at a set of statistics indicating Haren's mediocre numbers weren't entirely reflective of his performance. Haren had a 4.60 ERA and had given up 23 home runs in 21 starts this season. For one thing, 11 of Haren's starts came at Chase Field, one of baseball's best hitters' parks.

According to a source, one of the Angels' top evaluators rated Haren as a good No. 2 starter. The Angels viewed Joe Saunders, the pitcher he was dealt for, as a borderline No. 3 or 4 starter.

"This is a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark. That went into some of the thinking. His experience in the AL went into the thinking. His stuff went into the thinking," Reagins said. "This guy is a top-of-the-rotation guy."

Quote of the day

"It's not outside the realm of possibility he'll make his next start." -- Scioscia on Haren.

Looking ahead

By the time the Angels were in Boston this May, Jered Weaver already was tired of answering questions about John Lackey. They had been coming fairly steadily since the first day of spring training three months earlier.

"Are we going to talk about John again?" Weaver snapped.

Tuesday's game should finally close the chapter on that line of questioning. Weaver (9-6, 3.22 ERA), the former understudy, opposes Lackey (9-5, 4.36) for the first time.

"Me and Weave will probably have something on it, for sure," Lackey said.

Weaver, who leads the major leagues with 147 strikeouts, has been the better pitcher this year, though he has lost his last four starts. Weaver has left with a lead in 14 of his 21 starts this season. Lackey has had a disappointing first season in Boston, but his last two starts have been good. Lackey took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Seattle on Thursday. On May 5 in Boston, he shut the Angels down for seven innings.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES