Hearing from Haren following his spring debut (Nats lose)

VIERA, Fla. - It’s 5-1 Marlins as we go to the ninth inning here at Space Coast Stadium.

After Craig Stammen relieved Dan Haren and pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts, Tanner Roark gave up four runs in his 1 1/3 innings of work, putting Miami up big.

The Nationals loaded the bases with none out in the eighth, but brought across just one run on a Carlos Rivero sacrifice fly.

Drew Storen is on to work the ninth for the Nats.

I questioned in an earlier entry whether Dan Haren was battling some nerves in the first inning of his spring debut today. Haren gave up a triple to deep center on his second pitch of the game, allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach base and booted a ground ball hit right back at him.

So I asked Haren whether that was, indeed, the case. Was the veteran righty dealing with some nerves in his first start in a Nationals uniform?

“Absolutely,” Haren responded immediately. “There’s nerves every day. Every time I’ve taken the mound in my career there’s nerves. I was nervous waking up today. I think if you’re not like nervous, you shouldn’t even do it anymore. But you know, this is what gets us going - competing. And it starts today. But definitely there was some nerves.”

Haren allowed one run in his two innings of work, limiting the damage in the first and then retiring the Marlins in order with two strikeouts in the second.

“Felt good, especially as it was going along,” Haren said. “It was kind of a circus to start. They came out really aggressive, they swung at the first two strikes I threw. It’s a different feeling having a hitter in trying to get hits off you. I was a little out of sorts at the beginning, felt behind guys. It’s not my game to be (behind in the count) 1-0 or 3-0, but as the game started going, more first-pitch strikes and better looks. ...

“I’m not a guy (that) you’re going to watch me and you’re going to be like, ‘Wow, his stuff was just amazing today.’ I just work to get people out. It doesn’t have to look good, I just want outs.”

Haren planned on going just with his fastball and cutter today, but he threw one curveball and two splitters, one of which resulted in his first strikeout of the day, on Chris Coghlan.

The right-hander has made a concerted effort this spring to work on commanding the right side of the plate, specifically inside to right-handed hitters. He threw a handful of heaters inside to righties today and only remembered getting a strike on one of them, but felt good with his progress on that front.

“It’s a different feel to go in to a righty, where to start the pitch,” Haren said. “My game is all command, control, keeping guys off-balance, in and out. That’s got to be a part of my game this year. Started doing it in September last year. (I was) just getting beat out over the plate too much and was having a lot more success at the end of the year. So I came in dedicated to working that side of the plate this year.”

Haren joked that his stuff will complement that of the Nationals’ other starters nicely.

“My fastball usually hovers around where Strasburg’s changeup is,” he said with a smile, “so it’s going to be quite a different look for guys.”

Haren has some experience working with catcher Kurt Suzuki from their days together with the Athletics, and that battery got a chance to get some more time in together today.

“Kurt was pretty much in sync with me today which is really hard to do,” Haren said. “He was nice enough, he was catching the game the other day. I haven’t thrown to him since 2007 in Oakland, and he hasn’t caught me all spring and he was catching that day, and he came out that day early and caught my bullpen. So he’s trying to work with me, I’m trying to work with him.

“I’m not the easiest guy to catch, either, just because of the way I like to gameplan to hitters and the different things I like to do with the ball so it’s not so straightforward like fastball, curveball, changeup. A lot of it is location and setting up hitters.”

Update: That’ll do it. The Nats lose to the Marlins 5-1. Back with more in a few.

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