"I wish I had more answers," Dan Haren told reporters after Saturday afternoon's 7-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies in the nation's capital. Haren fell to (L, 4-9) with the loss and saw his ERA balloon to 6.15 (5.09 FIP) after he allowed seven hits and six runs in just 3.1 IP for the Washington Nationals, who had their three-game winning streak snapped as they fell back to .500 at 37-37 overall.
"I've searched," Haren said, "I've done video. I've changed the way I've pitched. 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 ways to get better."
In four June starts, Haren's now given up 29 hits, 20 runs and seven home runs in just 18.1 IP.
"I'm a little concerned about him," Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters after today's game. "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." The Nationals' manager stressed several times in his post game comments that he wanted to watch Haren's side session on Monday and talk to the pitcher before making any decisions on the right-hander's future.
"I don't want to speculate on what I'm thinking about right here," Johnson said today, "but I do have some concern. When he leaves it up, it's real flat. And he's not using his fastball as much as he did in setting up the offspeed pitches. I don't know if there's some physical problems or whatever, but when he throws his side -- 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 and I'll talk with him then, see if we can't come up with something that could help him."
Haren didn't say there were any physical issues when he spoke to reporters, and it's not a lack of confidence, as he explained. "When I take the ball that day I feel good. Feel like I'm going to win," the 32-year-old, 11-year veteran 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, so, it's definitely a battle to stay confident. There's self-doubt that obviously creeps in there for everybody whenever they're not doing well and obviously I've been struggling for a while now."
Part of the continued search for answers, Haren explained, has been to mix up his pitch selection. Haren's thrown his curve just 3.8% of the time this season, 6.2% in his career. He threw 14 curves (22%), 19 fastballs (30%), 23 cutters (37%) and seven splitters (11%) this afternoon before leaving the game with one down in the fourth. "I threw some different types of pitches," he said, "I threw some more curve balls today. My split has just been flat for several starts now. I tried to throw a few more curve balls today than I had in any game, and actually had good results with it, but was just getting my cutter and fastball up out over the plate just too much."
"I know he throws a lot of cutters," Davey Johnson said, agreeing with his pitcher's assessment of the cutter and fastball. "That's the in vogue pitch. A little cutter. But if it's flat and it's up... when he throws his fastball he's around 90, maybe 91, and the cutter is in that 88-range, that's a good pitch, but it's got to be located well. And when I talk about 'up' I'm talking about that his is just above the belt. You usually throw that cutter in on left-handers, at the hands. Coming off the plate, he's leaving it up out over the plate, so, and that's just from flying open."
A single, double, wild pitch that let a run in, hit by pitch and RBI single by the opposing pitcher in the top of the fourth ended Haren's outing. Davey Johnson took the ball from him on the mound and the starter heard it from the hometown crowd, who booed the right-hander as he left the field of play.
Though he obviously didn't like it, Haren said he understood the frustration.
"No one wants to be booed. But I'd probably boo myself too," Haren admitted, "It's just... I'm not doing well. The fans have a right to express how they feel and I wish I could perform better for them."
"I need to have a sitdown with him and watch his side, but when he's up, he gets hit," Johnson said, continuing to flesh out his thinking as to why Haren is struggling, "And he gets up, I think he's trying to put something on it, more movement on it, and he kind of flies open. I don't know until I get with him. I've had conversations with [Steve McCatty], conversations with the catchers. It is a concern."
"I'm going to address those things on his next side. With him."
The Nats' manager didn't sound like he'd completely given up on Haren. "I think it's still there," he said, "I've seen him pitch some great games. But he's a competitor and there might be something bothering him I don't know about. And there's all kinds of things I can do. A lot of times if it's something physical, sometimes you can miss a start, that kind of thing."
"I talk with him around the cages and stuff," Johnson said, "but it's just with him as a pitcher, he's always had good location, and what I think he does, when he tries to add to his velocity, a lot of guys they call it 'overthrowing,' their left shoulder flies out and there's not much life on it and it's easily picked up."
"I want to talk to him and I want to watch his side and we'll go from there."