It would probably be fair to say that Nationals fans have been concerned about Dan Haren's effectiveness for some time now.
After Haren's performance in today's 7-1 loss to the Rockies, Davey Johnson admitted he's now in that boat, as well.
Haren went just 3 1/3 innings this afternoon at Nats Park, allowing six runs on seven hits. The veteran right-hander struck out five and didn't walk a batter, but he did hit a batter, throw two wild pitches and surrender his major league-worst 19th homer of the season.
With today's outing, Haren's ERA rose to 6.15, also the worst in the majors among starting pitchers. Johnson wouldn't say after the game whether he's thinking about pulling Haren from the rotation, but he did say that he'll have a chat with Haren and then watch his side session Monday very carefully before deciding what will happen next.
"I'm a little concerned about him," Johnson said. "It seemed like when he pitches up, he's in trouble. His cutter, when he pitches up, is more flat. I'm going to have a talk with him next time he throws and see if we can't do something to make things better for him. I don't want to speculate on what I'm thinking about right here, but we have some concerns. When he leaves it up, it's real flat. And he's not using his fastball as much as he did and setting up those sweep pitches.
"I don't know if there's some physical problems, but when he throws his side on, I think his side will be on Monday, there's going to be a bunch of guys coming to a workout here and I'll be one of them. I'm going to talk with him and see if we can't come up with something that could help him."
It's unclear what Johnson will need to see Monday in order to influence his next move. What is clear, however, is that he's at least considering bumping Haren out of the rotation.
That said, Haren is making $13 million this season and has a track record. The Nats don't want to give up on him completely just yet.
"I think it's there, it's still there," Johnson said. "I've seen him pitch some great games, but he's a competitor and there might be something bothering him that I don't know about. There's all kinds of things I can do. A lot of times, if it's something physical, he can miss a start, that kind of thing. But we have an off-day coming up, but then that really wouldn't affect him because I need five starters starting Tuesday."
Haren's velocity is still around the same range that it has been in the past few seasons. The location and movement just haven't been where they need to be, and that's what's made Haren so good in the past.
Johnson doesn't really know what to make of Haren's performance this season, but he sure knows what he's getting from Ross Ohlendorf - key, effective innings and an aggressive mentality. Ohlendorf pitched 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball in relief of Haren today, leaving his ERA in two appearances with the Nats at 1.69.
"He pitched great," Johnson said, "I think he hadn't pitched in about eight or nine days, but he threw the ball great. He saved my 'pen, so that was a big boost.
"He's really located and he's got his offspeed stuff that he's kept down, and his fastball, he add and subtracts to it. I like that. Today, I think it hit 96 (mph) or something. He doesn't need to do that, but in that situation he was real pumped up. But he'll go from 88 to 93 (mph), just his location, you add and subtract away. He's a good pitcher."
The Nats managed just six hits and a single run off Rockies pitching today. They put just two runners in scoring position, not counting Ryan Zimmerman's solo homer in the ninth that prevented the shutout.
What led to the relapse with the offensive struggles?
"Us getting behind three runs in the first inning was a big part of it," Johnson said. "And then (Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin) just made a lot of good pitches, with both his fastball and his breaking stuff."
Bad starting pitching and barely any offense - not a recipe for success.
Jayson Werth, by the way, was scratched from today's lineup due to flu-like symptoms, according to Johnson. We'll see whether Werth is able to suit up tomorrow.