After he finished his start tonight, Dan Haren focused more on how Braves hitters looked than his final line. He allowed Atlanta four runs on eight hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings, only a little better than his ragged start Friday. But he saw more ugly swings, broken bats and weak foul balls, enough to make the veteran feel ready for the regular season.
“Just getting bad swings from hitters, it just kind of tells me that my stuff is better,” Haren said. “Last time it was like I needed an L screen out there. It was scary. This time I was getting way better swings and you could tell a lot by the reaction of hitters. There was more broken bats and stuff like that. That’s my game.”
Haren may not have rebounded with his results, and his Grapefruit League ERA (warning: spring training stats ahead) rose to 6.05. But he felt “1,000 times better” tonight, he said, than Friday against the Marlins in Jupiter. He struck out five, including Jason Heyward swinging twice. Haren’s fastball velocity jumped up to the high 80s and occasionally the low 90s, not quite what he reached early this spring but much stronger than his last start. After a long drive to Jupiter, Haren felt “achy” and generally weak. Tonight, he had no such problem.
“It was nice feeling normal again,” Haren said.
The Braves still cuffed him at times. They scored three runs in the second inning on three hits and a four-pitch walk, which Haren said “is not me.” Once he escaped the second, Haren retired 10 straight hitters. He threw mostly fastballs and cutters, but he credited a mid-game improvement to his splitter. He moved his index finger and middle finger further apart, and the wide grip caused better movement.
The end of Haren’s start left him disappointed. He recorded only one out in the sixth inning, and Justin Upton smashed a first-pitch fastball over the scoreboard and clean out of Champion Stadium. He was also upset at another hit on an 0-2 pitch, which he considers a cardinal sin. Mostly, though, Haren came away encouraged from his second-to-last spring start.
“I felt like besides the ball that hasn’t landed that Upton hit that it wasn’t like I was getting smoked all over the yard,” Haren said. “Definitely room for improvement, but a step in the right direction for me.”
“I wish I would’ve ended this outing better. I would’ve felt a little bit better about it, but I could go into the season right now. It gets a little monotonous, been here for a while, so it’s hard to get the adrenaline going. At the beginning of this game it kind of felt more normal with a night game, this is a nice place to play so it got my adrenaline going in the beginning but as the game wore on it turns into spring training so there’s always different, I talked about it last start, there’s checkpoints that you’ve got to hit. I think pitching under the lights is a lot funner. I’m ready for the season, for sure.”