Monday, July 26, 2010

Haren Hit Hard---Literally


By Ross Newhan

  In the fifth inning of his first start with the Angels Monday night, on his 62nd pitch, the question of Dan Haren's impact on his new team's ability to slice into the Texas Rangers' lead in the American League West almost became moot.

   Perhaps, it already is given that the Rangers lead the Angels by 7 1/2 games and the roughly $29 million that Angel owner Arte Moreno has commited to Haren has done nothing to fill the power voids at first and third base.

   In trading Joe Saunders and three pitching prospects to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Haren on Sunday, the Angels hope was that they had enhanced the front end of their rotation, and with two-plus months remaining could slowly cut into the Rangers lead, although the Rangers themselves had already traded for a dominant pitcher in Chiff Lee, added a veteran catcher in Bengie Molina and are believed to be negotiating with Florida for the power hitting Jorge Cantu.

    Of course, anyone familiar with Angel history knows this is an organization that has been dogged over the years by tragedy and bad luck, and there it was again in Haren's first start when that 62nd pitch was smoked up the middle by Boston's Kevin Youkilis and caromed off Haren's right forearm.

    The pitcher went to his knees and ultimately walked off the field with what was diagnosed as a contussion on that forearm.

    He will be re-examined today, and there is no certainty regarding his next start, tentatively scheduled for the weekend against Texas

    Haren was losing 2-1 when he left, and ultimately drew the loss as the Angels never caught up in a 6-3 defeat.

    Overall, he is 7-9 this season, and Boston's six hits in his brief tenure seemed in keeping with the .285 average that National League hitters had produced against him, not to mention 23 homers, which became 24 when David  Ortiz hit the first of his two home runs in the third inning.

    Angels Manager Mike Scioscia was saying before the game that you have to look beyond the numbers to internal aspects like his strikeout ratio, and that you have to consider that he will now be pitching home games in a park more favorable to pitchers.

    In his debut, however, Anaheim Stadium was no walk in the park for Haren, whose record over the last couple years was inferior to that of Saunders.

    The Angels No. 1 draft choice in 2002, Saunders was 33-14 in 2008 and 2009 before he slipped to 6-10 with a 4.62 ERA at the time he was traded, a deal which the Arizona media blasted.

    In his last start with the Angels on Friday, Saunders had pitched his best game of the year, losing 1-0 to the Rangers in Texas.

    Angel officials continued Monday to call Haren a top of the rotation type talent, and more than one said they were concerned with Saunders' ability to hold up physically, expressing concern about the southpaw's left shoulder in particular.

    In Haren, they have a pitcher who is under contract into his option year of 2013, and Scioscia said that was an important consideration.

    Of course, there are no guarantees. Moreno has again opened his wallet to make what he likes to call a capital investment, but he knows that two other well-known pitchers were unable to fulfill the terms of their contracts with the Angels--Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar--and that last year's $24.5 million deal for Scott Kazmir has not returned anticipated dividends.

    In addition, in acquiring Haren and infielder Alberto Callaspo, the Angels stripped their system of six pitching prospects, although they have seldom had a prospect come back to haunt them over the years. In fact, it is hard to think of even one except for Dante Bichette, who was traded prior to his big power years with the Colorado Rockies.

   "Sometimes prospects are just that," General Manager Tony Reagins said Monday night. "Sometimes they improve and sometimes they don't. If you draft and scout well, you can replenish your system, and when you have a chance to get a front end guy like Dan Haren you have to make the move."

    This was probably the Angels biggest deadline deal ever and certainly bigger than anything predecessor Bill Stoneman consummated.

   With the deadline on Saturday, the two biggest pitching names--Lee and Haren-- have already been traded, with one more, Roy Oswalt, likely to go if his Houston Astros can complete a deal with St. Louis, his team of choice if he is going to waive his no-trade clause.

    The two biggest hitters remaining on the market are Prince Fielder and Adam Dunn, and Reagins, hoping he has escaped a major injury to Haren, said the Angels may not be done.

    "We firmly believe we are still in this thing," he said of the race, "and we have the resources to take advantage of another opportunity if it presents itself." 

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