Dan Haren, ground ball pitcher

Harry How

The veteran right-hander in his 12th big league season has made a concerted effort to keep the ball down, and the early results have been just what the Dodgers needed.

LOS ANGELES -- All spring Dodgers starter Dan Haren talked about how his goal was to keep the ball down this year, and he was able to do that again in Saturday's win over the Diamondbacks.

Haren allowed five runs, though two were earned, and was able to pitch into the eighth inning on Saturday for his third win.

"I'm trying to do what I did in the second half of last year, to focus on location and not focus on how hard I'm throwing. Really I'm just trying to focus on keeping the ball down," Haren said. "This year I've gotten a lot more ground balls. I don't know what I can attest that to, other than focusing on keeping the ball at the knees or below. I've tended to be a fly ball pitcher over my career, but this year I've gotten a few more ground balls."

On Saturday against Arizona, Haren got 11 groundouts compared to just three flyouts. Entering the game, 54.7% of the balls hit in play against him were ground balls, by far the highest of his career. Haren has a career 42.7% ground ball rate, with a high of 46.4% back in 2005 when he was in Oakland.

Through four starts Haren has a 2.16 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, and is second on the staff in innings per start (6.25), second only to Clayton Kershaw's one start of 6⅔ innings. Haren by virtue of keeping the ball on the ground has only allowed two home runs.

It is similar to the second half of 2013, when after a disabled list stint with the Nationals Haren was 6-5 with a 3.29 ERA over his final 16 games, including 15 starts, striking out 23.9% of his batters faced while allowing just nine home runs.

Haren this year is striking out 19.6% of batters faced so far but has had success by limiting his walks - he has two bases on balls to go with his 20 strikeouts - and keeping the ball down. His average fastball entering play on Saturday, per PITCHf/x was 87.6 mph, the lowest of his career.

"I'm walking that fine line. I don't have overpowering stuff, so I can't just throw the ball down the middle, I wouldn't get out of an inning," Haren explained. "I'm constantly trying to attack the corners of the zone, just taking what the hitters give to me."

So far, it's working.

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