Dan's Weekend Report: Unwanted Harang hangs in There • Latino Sports


Dan’s Weekend Report: Unwanted Harang hangs in There


PHILADELPHIA — It’s hard to believe Aaron Harang is the guy nobody wanted.

A year ago last month, he was hoping to hook on with the Cleveland Indians after coming to camp on a minor-league contract.

Although he pitched well, the Tribe placed less stock in his strong exhibition game performance than in the pitcher’s poor split season of 2013.

There's lots of life in Aaron Harang's 37-year-old arm

There’s lots of life in Aaron Harang’s 37-year-old arm

Harang didn’t last long on the open market; the Atlanta Braves knew they could get sign him for $1 million, half the cost of the man he bumped, Freddy Garcia.

It was probably the best investment the tomahawk choppers made in 2014; Harang not only ate innings, as he had in the past, but pitched well despite receiving little support.

He worked 204 1/3 innings — his heaviest workload since 2007 — while splitting 24 decisions and posting a respectable 3.57 earned run average — a personal best that was much better than his career mark.

The San Diego native, now with his eighth team, has a 13-year record of 122-128 but hopes to even it out this season. That could happen with the Phillies, whose secured his signature on January 5 with a one-year offer of $5 million, or with a contending club that trades for him before the July 31 deadline.

At 6’7″ and 270 pounds, Harang would be an enormous presence if he didn’t bear the composure of a man

The Braves should have kept Aaron Harang

The Braves should have kept Aaron Harang

who looks to be half-asleep.

He was definitely awake Friday night, though, when he showed the Braves they made a huge mistake in failing to keep him. Even a month short of his 37th birthday, Harang still has plenty of life in his right arm.

To prove the point, he fired eight scoreless innings on a chilly, windy night that made the Braves feel like they were in Freeze-a-delphia. Because he left in a scoreless tie, he wasn’t the pitcher of record in a game he deserved to win. Harang yielded only back-to-back hits in the fifth inning. The Phils won, 1-0, on a passed ball and an error in the bottom of the ninth.

“I was really on,” he said, stating the obvious. “Once I was able to establish the strike zone, everything just fell into place.”

The pitcher fanned six, walked one, and had the benefit of three double-plays behind him.

Fredi Gonzalez praised Arron Harang for his eight scoreless frames

Fredi Gonzalez praised Arron Harang for his eight scoreless frames

“He did a good job keeping us off-balance,” said a frustrated Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves had been looking for a reprieve against the struggling Phillies after losing three straight to the red-hot Mets in New York.

The Arctic conditions didn’t help Atlanta, a team that thrives as the weather warms. The Braves had a week of wind, rain, thunder, sleet, and wind chills that were near freezing. Reporters covering the game at Citizens Bank Park Friday wore winter coats, knit hats, and gloves — even though that made tying difficult.

Harang, who also made a strong first impression with the Braves last April, has now made a career-best eight straight quality starts since September 10, 2014. He tied for second in the National League with 25 quality starts last season and was ninth in innings pitched. He had 11 strikeouts in one game and took no-hitters into the seventh twice.

While his new employers hardly expected the aging Harang to become their top starter, the Braves were so desperate to replace him that they traded for Arizona’s Trevor Cahill, an over-the-hill starter who makes more than twice as much money. Cahill has been such a bust that there’s talk of releasing him, just as the Braves did with newly-acquired outfielder Carlos Quentin (signed by Seattle).

In the meantime, Old Man Harang, who missed a spring training start with a bad back, keeps rolling along.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Nelson Cruz is destroying the Safeco Field rep as a graveyard for hitters

Nelson Cruz is destroying the Safeco Field rep as a graveyard for hitters

With nine home runs already, Nelson Cruz (Mariners) has found the secret to hitting in Safeco Field — putting distance behind his home runs, such as the 459-footer he hit leading off the second inning against Minnesota’s Phil Hughes the other day . . .

The M’s will miss starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, idled with a shoulder injury, but should gain a hitter in Carlos Quentin, signed after his release from Atlanta . . .

Dusty Baker, a four-time Manager of the Year, is itching to return the dugout and could get his chance in Milwaukee, Miami, or Atlanta . . .

Former Texas manager Ron Washington, who took his team to the World Series, also may return — if teams are as willing to forgive drug abuse by a manager as quickly as they forgive substance abuse by players . . .

It boggles the mind that Wayne Hagin, baseball’s best radio announcer, is on the outside, looking in . . .

What’s with the up-and-down decisions teams are making these days? Arnold Leon pitched exactly one inning in relief after his recall by the Oakland A’s before he was optioned out again . . .

Now that Tim Linceum (Giants) has cut his overly-flowing locks, Jacob deGrom (Mets) probably

Jacob deGrom still has flowing locks

Jacob deGrom still has flowing locks

deserves to be called “the Freak” instead . . .

Congratulations to Mark Teixeira, who proved he is aging gracefully when he slammed two homers to kick off the 2015 Subway Series for the Yankees against the Mets . . .

For those who wonder why some power hitters are spinning their wheels instead of their bats, it’s interesting to note that future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones did not hit his first home run until May 9.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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