After this afternoon's 7-1 Nationals loss, in which he went just 3 1/3 innings, allowed six runs and was booed off the mound, Dan Haren was seated at his locker waiting for reporters.
When about a dozen media members approached, Haren stood up, spun his chair around to create some room for the cameras, and calmly answered questions about yet another disappointing outing for 3 1/2 minutes.
Haren was honest, forthcoming and thoughtful in his responses, even when some tough questions were tossed his way. The 32-year-old is a pro, and he has no problem facing the music when he knows he hasn't performed.
He certainly hasn't lately, which is why Haren understands the reaction he got from fans when he made the slow walk back to the Nats' dugout with one out in the top of the fourth inning today, his team already trailing 5-0 at the time.
"I'd probably boo myself, too," Haren said. "I'm not doing well and the fans have a right to express how they feel. I wish I could perform better for them."
Haren finishes today with a 6.15 ERA on the season, worst in the majors. He's allowed the most home runs in the bigs (19) and has the worst opponents' OPS in the National League (.879). Worse than all that, the Nats are now 0-8 in Haren's last eight starts.
Manager Davey Johnson indicated after today's game that he's at least considering taking Haren out of the rotation for the time being. Johnson said he'll have a talk with Haren soon, and then will watch his side session Monday before deciding what comes next.
Asked if he's worried about losing his spot in the rotation, Haren admitted that it's something that's come into his mind recently.
"I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it," he said. "It's a performance-based business and obviously I'm not getting the job done, so, you know, I'll do what I can in between starts to keep myself prepared and come in and give myself the best chance to perform well. Unfortunately it just hasn't worked out."
Haren has said after past starts that despite the results, he's been able to stay confident going into the next outing, feeling good about his chances of getting the job done. That confidence, in-between starts, at least, is fading a bit.
"When I take the ball that day I feel good, I feel like I'm going to win," Haren said. "But obviously, after the last several starts, it's hard to remain confident in between, that's for sure.
"I've never gone through this stuff in my career. It's definitely a battle to stay confident. There's self-doubt that obviously creeps in for everybody whenever they're not doing well, and obviously I've been struggling for a while now."
Haren was asked whether health issues have played into his performance lately.
"There's aches and pains," he said. "Nothing I haven't pitched through in the past. Physically, I'm OK. I've been better, I've been worse, but it's still no excuse for what's gone on."
Today, Haren allowed three runs in the first inning, including a solo homer five pitches into his outing. He then shut down the Rockies over his next two innings, retiring six straight with three strikeouts. In the fourth, however, he got into more trouble. Haren allowed four of the five hitters he faced in the fifth inning to reach base, and got stuck with three more runs allowed.
He's had stretches this season (sometimes over two innings, sometimes over a few starts) where he's looked really good. Those stretches have then been followed by more crooked numbers getting put on the board by the opposition.
"That's what's been so perplexing, I guess, is I'll have spurts where it almost seems easy, and then there's spurts where I can't get anybody out," Haren said. "I wish I had more answers. I've searched. I've done video, I've changed the way I pitch, I've gone back to old ways, or new ways, I've tried a lot of stuff. At this point it's just still searching for way to get better."