General Manager Mike Rizzo said Monday he did not anticipate making any “splashy” trades before the deadline, but “it could always change.” Still, two major league executives said they expect the Nationals to seek a starting pitcher on the trade market. One of them said the Nationals seemed to be in a “holding pattern” as they waited for Haren to come off the disabled list so they could evaluate him.
If so, their evaluation Monday night could lead to few definitive conclusions. Haren’s recovery provided encouragement, but his first inning created doubt.
Revere flared a single to right, and Jimmy Rollins lashed another to left. Three pitches into Haren’s return start, the Phillies had runners on first and second base. Revere and Rollins promptly executed a double steal, and two runners stood in scoring position with no outs.
Haren struck out Chase Utley. With one out, Domonic Brown’s line drive drilled Haren in the shin and trickled toward first base for an RBI single. Haren limped back to the mound. The first inning had turned into tragicomedy.
“Before I knew it,” Haren said, “I was in trouble.”
Michael Young walked to load the bases. Haren came back with another strikeout, then moved one pitch away from escaping with a 2-2 count on Darin Ruf. But Haren missed twice off the outside edge of the plate, and his rare bases-loaded walk pushed across the Phillies’ second run.
Just as Haren neared another abyss, he gathered himself. He danced around a leadoff walk and a single in the third inning. He cruised through a 1-2-3 fourth. He fell into a rhythm with catcher Wilson Ramos, and Phillies kept lunging at cutters outside. In the fifth, consecutive two-out singles gave the Phillies a rally, but Haren threw a cutter past Ruf with his 95th and final pitch.
“We expect him to win games, keep us in games, pound the strike zone, utilize his command of his three pitches and get guys out,” Rizzo said. “That’s what he expects of himself, and that’s what we expect from him.”
After Monday night, it wasn’t clear what the Nationals could expect from Haren. He pitched only well enough for another chance to prove he can still be a different pitcher.