Dan Haren’s final March start mimicked how his entire spring training unfolded. He had easy stretches and bad moments, and it ended with him feeling good despite rough results.
Haren became the first Nationals starter to put a bow on his preseason tune-ups today as he allowed four homers, including two from Giancarlo Stanton, over six innings. He yielded seven hits and one walk while striking out three, throwing 91 pitches. He retired 10 consecutive batters at one point and reached 90 miles per hour with his fastball, but home runs were his undoing. Haren finished his spring with a 6.39 ERA, striking out 18 and walking five over 25 1/3 innings.
“Overall, I’m ready for the season,” Haren said. “It’s monotonous for everybody at this point. I would have liked to have better results, but it’s not going to linger. I’m good. I’m confident.”
The wind blowing out may have pushed two of the homers over the fence, including Stanton’s first, a fly over the right field fence. But two were legitimately crushed – Stanton’s second landed halfway up the batter’s eye in center field.
“He found out which hitters he didn’t want to come in on,” Manager Davey Johnson said, laughing. “He got his work. He finished up the spring in good shape. He’ll be ready to go.”
Throughout his career, Haren has rarely produced sterling results in spring training. His only spring ERA below 3.94 came last year, and he followed that with the worst season of his career by far. Haren, 32, feels he accomplished what he wanted. Coming off a year in which hip and back issues derailed him, he stayed healthy
“I feel really good,” Haren said. “Coming into this spring here, I was most worried about how I would make it health-wise in spring. Spring is actually a lot more grueling than the regular season, just because a lot of day games, drills, you’re hitting, running, doing first-to-third stuff every day. I feel really good right now. I’m happy. Of course I would like to go in with a better feeling. Once the lights turn on, it’s a different story.”
One NL scout agreed with Haren’s assessment. “He’s better than two weeks ago,” he said. “He’s getting close.”
Because of how the Nationals’ schedule plays out, Haren will have nine days off before he makes his first start of the regular season. He plans to simply throw a few more bullpen sessions, and he does not foresee an issue.
“It’s not the worst thing in the world,” Haren said. “I’ve never thrown on eight days rest or anything like that. But you got to do what you got to do.”
>>> The Nationals, seven weeks into spring training, are ready go home. Players are always eager to start the season by the end of March, but especially this year, when the World Baseball Classic extended camp a week and a half.
“Yeah, this is awful,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I mean, I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But it’s pretty hard to get excited to play a game for the seventh week in Melbourne, Fla. We’ve been down here for a while. But we have do it. The most important part right now is not really the games. It’s getting yourself prepared for the game, to get yourself mentally ready to be on that grind every day and do whatever you have to do to get your body ready.”
The Nationals’ schedule has not helped their mood. Last night, they traveled to Kissimmee to play the Astros. This morning, the bussed two hours the other direction to Jupiter.
“All the guys came on the trip,” Haren said. “And nobody wants to. … You can’t exactly cut the tension with a knife. It’s hard to get up for these things.”
Before you head into the comment section and tee off on spoiled, entitled athletes: neither Zimmerman nor Haren are decrying their lot in life. They know how lucky they are. They’re just bored ballplayers ready to get out of Florida and play games that count. Save your energy for pointing out the typos.
>>> Some other notables from the game: Roger Bernadina went 2 for 2 with a homer off the bench. Tyler Clippard put up another 1-2-3 inning and has now allowed no runs in nine innings with 13 strikeouts and two walks.