(Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

Mike Scioscia managed Dan Haren, the Nationals’ newest starter, for two and a half seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. Scioscia watched Haren dominate down the stretch in 2010, finish seventh in the AL Cy Young vote in 2011 and then, last year, struggle through injury for the first time in his career.

He watched Haren change as a pitcher, but never waver in his approach. Scioscia admitted Haren’s stuff has diminished from 2010, but said Haren can still thrive on his guile and competitiveness.  

“Danny’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever seen on the mound,” Scioscia said this afternoon at the winter meetings. “Although a scout might evaluate him in the stands and see that his stuff isn’t quite as crisp as it was three or four years ago, it’s still good.

“He knows how to pitch. His ability to understand what he needs to do, his ability to get back in the counts, his ability to put hitters away, is still there. It might not be as brilliant as it was three years ago. He can still pitch, and pitch at a high level. You’re not going to find anybody that competes better than Dan Haren.”

In the first half of last season, Haren pitched through a back injury he suffered in spring training and punched up a 4.86 ERA over 17 starts and then went on the disabled list for the first time. Haren never regained his velocity from prior seasons, but he recaptured his effectiveness as his back healed and he worked to fix a mechanical issue. He posted a 3.58 ERA while throwing eight quality starts in 13 outings.

“His command definitely improved,” Scioscia said. “I think that he understood he’s not quite … where one number was 90 or 91 with him, now it’s 88 or 89. But that’s not a huge dropoff. And his ability to command the ball improved. And as that improved, you saw his production was much better.”