Manager Davey Johnson hoped struggling right-hander Dan Haren would be able to “step back” while on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, using the break as a way to mentally recharge. For Haren, that may be easier said than done.
“I hate being on the DL,” Haren said. “It’s way worse. I hate it. For me, I feel just like not part of the team. I want to be out there with the guys. I’ll be out on the bench and stuff and I want to go on the trip to New York. But I don’t like it at all. Last year was my first experience on it. I didn’t like it then. I don’t like it now.”
Monday, Haren underwent an MRI, which showed no structural damage, as he expected. Haren plans to start playing catch again in a day or two. Haren will be eligible to come off the disabled list July 8, and he said he expected to rejoin the Nationals after a minimal layoff. Johnson, though, indicated Haren would probably not return until after the all-star break, which would give him an extra 10 days on the disabled list beyond his first day eligible.
As Haren adapts to life on the disabled list, the Nationals will need to choose a starter to replace him. The Nationals will be able to use their current rotation until Saturday before needing another starter.
The leading candidate appears to be Class AA right-hander Taylor Jordan, a 24-year-old who is 7-0 with a 0.83 ERA in nine appearances since his early-season promotion from Class A Potomac. Jordan has wowed the Nationals since spring training, when they let him face the Cardinals in a split-squad game. (He was shelled that day.)
Johnson identified Ross Ohlendorf as a candidate, but then said Haren’s replacement would “more likely come from lower down than” Class AAA Syracuse. Johnson also mentioned Nate Karns and “a guy who was also a teammate of his and throwing pretty good.” That teammate, presumably, is Jordan.
One scout answered in the affirmative when asked if Jordan was ready to pitch in the majors, despite his dearth of experience. “Will throw strikes, not afraid to challenge hitters with fastballs,” the scout said.
When Haren returns, the Nationals will likely give him another chance to prove himself. There is precedent for Haren to improve after taking a respite to iron out a health issue. Last year, Haren compiled a 4.86 ERA before he went on the disabled list with back stiffness. After he returned, Haren put up a 3.58 ERA in 13 starts.
“You never know,” Haren said. “Baseball is the ultimate game of inches. Missing up on a pitch by two inches can really affect you. Hopefully, the rest and the medicine and stuff will get me back to feeling great out there.”
The Nationals will also have many options on the trade market. They showed interest in trading for Cubs right-hander Matt Garza before the Rays dealt him before the 2011 season. Other trade candidates include Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco and Yovani Gallardo.
Johnson insisted the Nationals, for now, are intent on finding an answer in-house.
“We feel like we’ve got a lot of good, young arms that can hold us in there, as far us thinking we need to go outside,” Johnson said. “And I still have all the confidence in the world in Haren. I think this was probably much needed, kind of step back. Talking to him, his back’s not bothering him. His arm just had a hard time getting loose. We found what the problem was there, and he got treatment for it.”