Nats' Dan Haren vs The Marlins Tonight; The Nationals' Rotation With Trade Deadline Looming

USA TODAY Sports

How big a start is this for Dan Haren tonight? Will his success or lack of it vs the Miami Marlins force the Washington Nationals to make a move to add pitching? Or can the veteran right-hander impress and convince the Nats he's turned things around?

"It's good to give [Dan] Haren another one or two starts (tonight and Saturday at Miami)," Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote on Monday in a chat with readers, "to see if his 'side sessions' really did produce a tweak in his off-speed pitches that makes them a bit slower, so there is a bigger 'gap' in speed between his fastball/cutter and his split."

Haren, the Nats' 32-year-old right-hander who has struggled after signing a 1-year/$13M dollar deal in D.C., told the WaPost reporter he believed the "bigger gap" in speed between his pitches and the time he spent on the DL after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder would help him recover from a rough start to his time as a National.

In 15 starts before his DL stint, the 11-year veteran had a 6.15 ERA with opponents posting a .306/.340/.548 line against the right-hander, who surrendered 19 home runs in 82 IP.

"I was pleased with his command. I was pleased with his stuff. He threw a lot of pitches, and that's the only reason I didn't let him go back out there." - Davey Johnson on Dan Haren vs Philadelphia

In Haren's 15 starts, Washington was 4-11 with the starter (4-9). Haren fell to (4-10) after he took a loss in his first start back in Philadelphia this past Monday night, which saw him surrender seven hits, three walks and two runs in 5.0 innings, but Nats' skipper Davey Johnson liked what he saw from the pitcher against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.

"He threw the ball very well," Johnson said after the loss which saw former National John Lannan dominate the Nats. "I was pleased with his command. I was pleased with his stuff. He threw a lot of pitches, and that's the only reason I didn't let him go back out there. But he threw the ball really good. I'm glad to have him back."

Nats' GM Mike Rizzo agreed as he told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier earlier this week.

"I liked the way he threw the ball," the general manager said. "The ball came out of his hand well. There was a velocity difference there, that's what we were looking for between his fastball, his cutter and his split. To hold the Phillies to three runs in five innings is a good step in the right direction. Especially in that ballpark. He did what we expect our five starter to do. He gave us a chance to win the ballgame. And that's all we're looking for from our starting pitchers, especially when you're talking about back-end-of-the-rotation guys."

"The ball came out of his hand well. There was a velocity difference there, that's what we were looking for between his fastball, his cutter and his split." - Mike Rizzo on Haren on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"You know both of those guys, Taylor Jordan and Dan Haren, gave us an opportunity to win both of these ballgames in Philly," Rizzo said. "And once again we just couldn't score enough runs for Dan Haren, who's got the worst run support in major league baseball right now. If he had gotten, over the course of the season, maybe Jordan Zimmermann's run production of some of the other starters' run production, we wouldn't be talking about a guy that's (4-10), he might have six, or seven or eight wins."

If Haren has seven or eight wins and a lower ERA, less HRs allowed, etc., are people still talking about the need for the Nationals to find a starter? If Ross Detwiler is healthy? Taylor Jordan not on an as-yet-undefined innings limit? Can Dan Haren's second start off the DL convince the Nats they're fine going forward with what they have? Earlier this week, Davey Johnson told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, that in spite of the chatter around the league about the Nationals pursuing pitching, he's not pushing for the team to make a move.

"'I don’t think that’s in our plans'" Johnson was quoted stating, "'Because I think we have enough talent here where we don’t need to do that. But I’m sure Mike [Rizzo] is looking at everything.'" The WaPost reporter did write, however, that Johnson "acknowledged" that a setback with Detwiler or trouble with Haren could force the Nationals to react. Can they afford to wait and see?

Haren starts tonight in Miami, the second of the two starts the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell suggested the Nats give him before making up their minds. After tonight and the series finale tomorrow, it's the All-Star Break then two weeks until the trade deadline...

"I think the worst thing the Nats can do," the WaPost reporter added, "is delay a trade for a fifth starter while they wait and wait for their $13M Haren investment to pay off." Ross Detwiler hasn't started throwing yet with ten days until he returns from the DL. How many innings/pitches does Taylor Jordan have left? Do the Nationals trust Nathan Karns? Do they want Ross Ohlendorf starting an important game in September? How much will what they get from Dan Haren tonight affect their plans going forward? In his one start against the Marlins in Miami earlier this season, Haren gave up seven hits and seven runs, four earned in 4 1/3 IP...

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