Haren eager to make most of likely last hurrah
Veteran hurler eyes milestones, October baseball with Cubs
CHICAGO -- Dan Haren already has beaten all 30 Major League teams -- 31, if you count the Expos. He started for the American League in the 2007 All-Star Game. Haren pitched in a World Series. He now needs one win for No. 150 of his career. He's 28 strikeouts shy of 2,000. The right-hander hopes to get both of those milestones with the Cubs, pitch deep into the postseason and then head home to California for good.
On Tuesday against the Brewers, Haren will make his second start for the Cubs, who acquired him from the Marlins on July 31 to fill in the fifth spot in the rotation. His debut on Wednesday against the Pirates didn't go as he would've liked, giving up three earned runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
"I know this guy is a big-time competitor, he wants to do well, he wants to fit in," Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "He even said [after his first start], 'Yeah, I was really surprised I had those feelings in the first inning of the game.' Maybe it was nervousness, anxiety of the moment with a new team, trying to do too much.
"I said, 'Yeah, I was expecting you to do a couple different things,' and he says, 'Yeah, me, too,'" Bosio said. "That told me right there, even though you have all that experience, you still give a [hoot], and that's where Danny is coming from. He cares. He wants to do well, like everybody on this team."
This is Haren's 13th big league season, and he had pitched in 380 games before that game. Was he a little anxious?
"[I had] a little bit of nerves," Haren said. "Nerves aren't good for me because the ball gets up. It's hard to get away with the pitches up."
Command has always been key for Haren, who ranks third among active pitchers in walks per nine innings and 12th in WHIP in a single season. He added a cutter in 2008 to counter a drop in velocity, and it's worked. Haren has accepted the change. His Twitter account is @ithrow88.
"Now I rely more on scouting reports, rely more on my defense, and try to pitch to hitter's weaknesses rather than to my strengths, because my strengths aren't as good as they once were," Haren said. "The good thing is I have really good command and I'm able to execute my pitches well, something I didn't do that great of a job in my first start here, walking a few guys and stuff. That's not me."
Bosio recognizes Haren's delivery because it reminds the coach of himself when he pitched for the Brewers and Mariners. On Saturday, Bosio introduced Haren to a drill in which the right-hander goes through his delivery but instead of holding a baseball, he's lifting a weighted medicine ball. Haren holds the ball above his head and then pauses on his back foot before completing the motion. It's an effort to get the pitcher to keep his weight more on his back side.
"I would vary my times in the windup, and Dan does it as good as anybody in baseball," Bosio said. "Johnny Cueto does it with a little more flair. We tried to incorporate a couple things that I thought he'd like. It seemed to go pretty good -- he liked it."
And rather than be reluctant to change, Haren is receptive.
"I'm open to anyone's suggestions to try to make me better," Haren said. "I've evolved as a pitcher throughout the years. I'm not a hard-headed type guy. I like to take the advice of others and try new things and keep getting better."
Haren also has seen what Bosio has done for Cubs starters Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel.
"I said, 'Listen, I'm not going to be real vocal early, but I know what I've seen on tape, I know what I've seen across the field, and there will be times when I have some suggestions,'" Bosio said of an early conversation with Haren. "He said, 'Absolutely -- bring it.'"
After watching Chicago sweep San Francisco to open a 3 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the National League Wild Card standings, Haren likes what he's seen of the Cubs.
"I'm just really excited to be a part of this," Haren said. "I'm going to come in here and not mess anything up. I just want to let the guys be themselves, and I'll try to fit in along the way. The vibe in the clubhouse is really, really good. It seems like the few days I've been here, we know how to win games, even though we have a bunch of young guys."
This is the fifth time Haren has been traded, but only the second time in-season.
"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself," he said. "It's not like I have to come in here and be 'The Man.' I have to come in here and do what I've done all year -- which is why they got me -- and give the team a chance every time."
It's been a smooth transition for both Haren and reliever Tommy Hunter, acquired from the Orioles on July 31.
"Him and Tommy have fit in like they've been here all along," Bosio said.
And when this season wraps up, whether its early October or later that month, Haren will say goodbye. The right-hander, who turns 35 on Sept. 17, is ready to be a full-time dad to his two young children in California.
"I'm pretty sure [this is it]," Haren said. "I don't want to go into my last game, thinking, 'This is my last game, this is my last inning, this is my last pitch.' Chances are, I've given the game everything I've had. I'll be 35 years old. I have a lot of wear and tear. It's been amazing and I don't want to close the door, but there's a really good chance this is probably it."
Sunday marked the anniversary of when Haren beat team No. 31 -- an Aug. 9, 2013, win with the Nationals over the Phillies. He was the 13th Major League pitcher to accomplish that feat at that time; two more have joined the list. Haren still has some other things to do.
"I've been sitting on 149 wins for a little while, so I think it'll be cool getting that win as a Cub," Haren said. "I'm getting close to 2,000 strikeouts, so that'll be cool. Getting those things and hopefully we make the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, and then I can just ride off into the sunset."