Dan Haren happy to be close to home

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

"There were a lot of other opportunities," Haren said of his free agency. "This offseason moved a lot quicker than last season. Things got crazy for about a week."

LOS ANGELES -- For southern California native Dan Haren, pitching for the Dodgers was a great opportunity both on and off the field.

"It means so much to my family and I to come back to southern California. ... My kids are growing up. To be so close to home and to pitch for a championship-caliber team is important," Haren said via conference call on Monday. "Once the Dodgers and I started talking we came to an agreement pretty quickly."

Haren lives in Irvine, in the same neighborhood as Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire and former Dodger utility man Skip Schumaker. He grew up in West Covina, about halfway between Los Angeles and Anaheim, and split his time as a youth going to both Dodgers and Angels games. Haren pitched for Bishop Amat High School in La Puente and at Pepperdine University.

His first career victory was at Dodger Stadium on July 19, 2003, beating Kevin Brown.

"Dodger Stadium has always been one of my favorite parks," Haren said.

General manager Ned Coletti said several starting pitchers on the free agent market were looking at "long, long-term deals," and that the combination of Haren's pedigree and the short-term nature of the deal made it too attractive to pass up.

"We've been looking for a starting pitcher, and we've been looking for someone we could lean on to provide starts and innings," Colletti said. "He's from the area and understands the Dodgers tradition.

"He adds a lot to us. He's one of those veterans who can bring a steadiness to the rotation."

Haren will somewhere in the back end of the Dodgers rotation, behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. With Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley each under contract but each coming off surgery, the Dodgers are expected to still be active, and have been rumored to be interested in Japanese right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who could be posted as early as this week.

"We'll see what else comes about. I'm not gonna close the door on any more starters. If something else comes our way, we'll take a look at it," Colleti said. "We hope we get Josh back and we hope we get Chad back, but right now we don't have Josh back and we don't have Chad back."

Colletti said he expects Beckett to be ready by the start of spring training, and for Billingsley to be ready "at some point during the season."

The Dodgers went into the 2013 season with eight starting pitchers under guaranteed contract, and needed a ninth starting pitcher by the end of April.

For his part, Haren doesn't see his role as competing for a spot in the rotation.

"I'm confident in my abilities. In talking to Ned he assured me he was bringing me in to pitch, to be one of the five starters," Haren said. "I'm not worrying about who's coming back and when they're coming back. I'm going to take the ball and run with it."

Haren has made 30 starts in nine straight seasons - "I pride myself on taking the ball every fifth day no matter what," he said - but the last two years featured his first two trips to the disabled list, with back problems in 2012 and shoulder inflammation in 2013.

Last year with the Nationals, Haren was a tale of two halves. Before the disabled list he was 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA with 19 home runs in 15 starts, and after the DL he was 6-5 with a 3.29 ERA and nine home runs in 15 starts.

"I didn't do anything drastically different as it would seem. The first half of the season physically I felt great. I was getting burned by the home run," Haren said. "I went on the DL and focused on keeping the ball down, making a conscious effort to keep the ball in the park. I felt in a groove again."

Haren will make $10 million in 2014, and has potential to make another $3 million more in bonuses, based on innings pitched and games started. If he reaches 180 innings, his 2015 option for $10 million becomes a player option, with another $3 million in incentives.

"I expect to reach all my incentives," Haren said.

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