JUPITER, Fla. - Dan Haren sure doesn’t sugarcoat things.
The veteran right-hander allowed five runs on six hits over five frames today in a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals, and as reporters approached to ask about his outing, Haren cracked a smile and tossed out a few obscenities.
With his typical brutally honest and incredibly self-aware style, he then started delving into his issues on the mound today.
“That was just one of those days, man,” Haren said. “I felt like I was throwing a weighted ball out there. It was just bad, all the way around. As I went along, it was a little bit better, but my first couple starts were far and away better than this. I just, I don’t know if it’s dead-arm, or I don’t even know what that is, I just didn’t feel great. ...
“I had slop out there. It was embarrassing.”
Haren said he felt “achy” today, which sure sounds like the dead-arm diagnosis that’s thrown around a lot this time of spring. Pitchers often start to feel like their arm is achy once they’re a few starts in and their pitch count has been built up. They usually battle through that feeling just for a brief time, and then pitch their way out of it.
“It always happens,” manager Davey Johnson said. “You do a lot of throwing. We’ve been here almost six weeks, and it’s a lot of throwing. You’ve played enough games, and they’re right at the point to where they’re getting their arm to where they can throw 90 pitches.”
Haren allowed a home run to Jon Jay leading off the game and then after singles by Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams took a Haren pitch over the right-field fence to quickly make it a 4-0 Cards lead. A sacrifice fly by Jay in the fourth inning brought in the fifth run off Haren.
The 32-year-old sat around 87-88 mph on the stadium gun today, but the Nationals’ own guns clocked him in the low-to-mid 80s. His previous times out this spring, Haren was consistently throwing in the 88-91 mph range.
Johnson said he didn’t need to look at the gun readings to know what he was seeing.
“I could see the way he was throwing. I was ready to go hit,” Johnson said with a laugh.
Haren was asked whether games like this happen to him most springs.
“What? Me getting lit?” Haren quipped. “Yeah, typically, if you look at my numbers.”
Actually, Haren’s right. Outside of last season, his best ERA in spring training came in 2006, when he posted a 3.94 ERA. This spring, he has a 5.79 ERA through four starts.
Last spring, Haren posted a 2.05 ERA, then went on to have the worst year of his career, landing on the disabled list for the first time in 10 big league seasons and finishing the regular season with a 4.33 ERA.
“That worked out well for me,” Haren joked, referencing his strong spring in 2012. “But I mean, it’s just a bump in the road. I’ve thrown the ball well. My velocity’s been fine all spring, it’s just one of those days. I just didn’t have anything out there. Just trying to battle through it.
“I think everyone usually has one hiccup every spring. People probably get a little more panicked when I do, just because of last year, so just all the more reason to look forward to the next start. I’ll be fine. I’ll be out there.”
Outside of Haren, there isn’t much to note from this one. Ryan Mattheus struck out two in a scoreless seventh inning and yet again, Micah Owings was the offensive highlight, going 2-for-2. The pitcher-turned-position-player is now batting .429 this spring.
“One thing, as a pitcher, he knows what he’d start a hitter off with,” Johnson said of Owings. “He knows what he’d go to. He thinks like a hitter as a pitcher, and he’s got tremendous power and he’s aggressive. Those are the things you’d like to see for a young hitter. But I don’t discount the fact that he knew how to pitch, he knew how to set guys up, so that helps you in knowing what they’re thinking about to go after you.
“He’s had a great spring. I’m really impressed by him. He had a rough start with some injuries and a few things along the way but he’s been fun to watch and it’s been fun seeing him play and give him the opportunity.”
Johnson was asked what Owings needs to work on at this point.
“I mean, it’s spring training. He’s facing guys who are working on things and don’t know him and don’t have a good idea of how they want to pitch to him. And there’s no book on him. He just needs some at-bats and playing in the field. Today I know he was getting some (medical) treatment. He’s been playing a lot. It’s kind of tough to be a pitcher your whole life and all of a sudden now you’re out playing a position and battling to try to get hits. He’s had a great spring.”