Dan Haren is only 32. Compared to the rest of his Nationals’ rotation mates, however, he is the elder statesman.
Gio Gonzalez is 27. Jordan Zimmermann is 26, so is Ross Detwiler. Stephen Strasburg is only (!) 24. And none has more than three full seasons of starting in the major leagues.
Enter Haren, here on a one-year, $13 million deal, who has pitched in the majors for 10 seasons, amassed over 1,876 innings and thrown over 29,575 pitches. Seven times Haren has thrown over 200 innings in a season. The four other Nationals starters? Twice. And both by Gonzalez, although he and Zimmermann fell short of that milestone by fewer than 10 innings each last year. And for the first time in his career, Haren will be counted on as the veteran of a rotation. He’ll be the “older” guy they turn to when needed.
“I feel a little bit old,” said Haren, who arrived at Nationals camp on Wednesday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday morning. “I’m not that old, 32. I’ve been around a little while. But a lot of the guys are younger and hopefully I have something to offer them. It’s going to be fun working with them and watching them pitch and playing with an exciting group of guys. Everyone kind of does something a little bit different.”
Haren met Nationals Manager Davey Johnson for the first time on Wednesday. (“He seems like a players’ kind of guy, mingling around.”) And he met Steve McCatty, the team’s sarcastic pitching coach. (“I talked to him on the phone a few times. It’s easier to understand him in person.”) Strasburg has already said he hopes to glean pitching tips from Haren, and the two, coincidentally, have adjacent lockers in the spring training clubhouse. On Thursday, they chatted briefly about golf before a team meetings.
“Spring is about bonding a little bit as a unit,” Haren said. “You gotta learn the guys you’re going to go in to battle with. It’s a long year. It’s a journey. Hopefully this group gets close. I know the expectations are sky high, which they should be.”
Haren, who has said he has a lot to prove after his first run-in with injuries last season, re-reiterated that he feels healthy from his back and hip issues. He has thrown at least six bullpen sessions already and “physically, I’m right where I want to be.” He toned down the heavy weightlifting in the offseason, and focused on strengthening his core.
“I used to just walk outside, pick up a baseball and just throw it 300 feet,” he said. “Well now, I actually need to stretch. When I’m done throwing, I need to get stretched. I need to do a little bit more cardio. At no point in my career have I ever been lazy, whether it be the workouts, cardio or that type of stuff. Like I said, it’s just about being a little bit smarter this time around.”
So, yes, Haren admitted he’s getting older.