The Dodgers made their signing of pitcher Dan Haren official on Monday, with an assist from Zack Greinke.
Haren and Greinke were teammates on the Angels in 2012, and Haren said he relied on Greinke’s scouting report on the team while talks were going on.
Greinke gave the Dodgers, the ballpark and the fans two thumbs up. That was good enough for Haren.
“I talked to him throughout the whole process,” Haren said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “He enjoyed pitching here. He loves the ballpark, and I’ve always loved pitching at Dodger Stadium. He said the team is amazing, the talent is second to none. I mean, we’ve got stars at every position. He said the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium is great.”
Of course, Haren didn’t need much convincing to sign the one-year deal for $10 million, which includes an option for the same salary in 2015 if he reaches certain incentives.
He was born in Monterey Park, played high school ball at Bishop Amat in La Puente and Pepperdine University in Malibu and lives in Irvine, in the same gated community as hitting coach Mark McGwire. After spending last season with the Washington Nationals, he was ready to return to his Southern California roots.
“Things didn’t work out the way I wanted on an individual or team level,” he said of his season with the Nationals. “As the season wound down, it was really hard being that far away from (my family), as my kids were growing up. To have an opportunity to come back and be so close to home and pitch for a championship-level club couldn’t have happened any better for me.
“Once the Dodgers and I talked, things got moving pretty quickly and we came to an agreement. I think both sides are happy.
Haren, 33, passed his physical in the morning and toured the stadium with general manager Ned Colletti afterward. He grew up in West Covina and saw about 20 to 30 games a season at both Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium.
“This guy is so excited to be here,” Colletti said. “This is a very important thing for him, and a very special thing. It’s good to hear that in somebody’s voice.”
Haren, a right-hander, went 10-14 last season for the Nationals with a 4.67 ERA. He had a 3.23 ERA over his final 15 starts and said the only significant change he made was keeping the ball down. He gave up 28 home runs for the second season in a row.
“People think I probably made some huge mechanical adjustment, but honestly, the first half of the season, physically I felt great,” he said. “I was getting burned by the home run. It just seemed like it was the same story every game. I’d keep the team right there, give up a run or two the first three or four innings, then give up the big three-run home run that just put us in a hole. It kind of snowballed.”
The Dodgers are looking at Haren as a fourth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but they’re also waiting to see how injured starters Chad Billingsly and Josh Beckett look after surgeries.
Billingsly had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow after making just two starts in 2013. Beckett is coming back from an operation in July to treat a nerve problem that left his fingers and arm with a tingling sensation. He’s supposed to be ready for spring training.
With the availability of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka still unknown, Haren could be a significant contributor.
“When talking about the depth of the starting rotation with Ned over the phone, he assured me he was bringing me in to pitch, to be one of the five starters,” Haren said. “Of course, I looked at the injuries, who’s coming back or who they might make a run at. Then I thought, ‘The Dodgers have shown interest in me, they want me to be one of their five starters and I want to be one of their five starters. I’m not going to worry about who’s coming back, when they’re coming back. I’m going to take the job they told me I have and run with it.’ “
According to reports, Haren’s 2015 option is worth $10 million. While he said he might have been able to get a second year guaranteed from another team, he didn’t consider the incentives to be a problem. And playing close to home was important enough to him that he opted for the Dodgers.
“I’ve got to earn it,” he said. “I expect to reach all my incentives. Teams that were more desperate for starting pitching, my agent was in touch with those teams. There had been discussions with going to a second year. Whether it would’ve happened, I don’t know.
“The Dodgers wanted to go one year, and the options made sense for both of us. We really settled on it pretty quick. Things happened fast once we exchanged numbers. It was within a day or two things were done.”