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Dan Haren feels like part of the team after strong first impression

Haren praised his cut fastball for much of his success on Wednesday, the very pitch that caused him trouble in an exhibition contest over the weekend.

Denis Poroy

SAN DIEGO -- Four days after getting lit up in a game that didn't count in the final Freeway Series contest, Dan Haren on Wednesday in San Diego came up big in his first game that counted with his new team.

"I definitely had nerves. On a new team you always want to make a good impression. I'm glad I did that," Haren said after the game. "I feel like part of the team now. I hadn't done anything up to now."

Haren struck out six in six innings, allowing only one unearned run. A far cry from the six runs and two home runs in just two innings he allowed against the Angels on Saturday. The culprit that night was the cutter, which wasn't sharp, to the point where Haren on Saturday said he would have abandoned it sooner had the game counted.

On Wednesday against the Padres, Haren didn't need to abandon anything, especially his cutter

"I was getting it where I wanted to be. I got some strikeouts in big situations. Everything was working pretty good. As the game went along I felt my cutter was my best pitch," Haren said. "It was quite a change from a couple days ago."

It wasn't just the game against the Angels in which Haren had trouble in the spring. He put up a 6.00 ERA in four Cactus League starts and struck out five in 12 innings. He stayed behind at Camelback Ranch to pitch in two more minor league games while most of the rest of the team traveled to Australia.

"Man I got my butt kicked in those camp games. I don't even think it was my stuff, it's just the adrenalin level, there's nobody watching, it's dead silent. It's hard to simulate major league innings," Haren explained. "That's kind of why I wanted to pitch that last game [of the Freeway Series], even though it didn't go great. At least I got on a big league mound, under the lights. I'm still glad I did that."

Even as Haren struggled with results in the spring, manager Don Mattingly wasn't concerned.

"You're not really worried about a guy like Danny in spring training," Mattingly said. "You know he's working on things and trying to get ready."

Haren was away from most of his teammates for nine days, from the departure to Australia on March 16 until the workout at Dodger Stadium on March 25. His start against the Angels was four days later.

"They came back from Australia and I had that game against the Angels, it wasn't exactly what I wanted to show," Haren said. "I really wasn't with the team that much. Teams often bond on the road, in the clubhouse, on a plane, on the bus, and I really didn't have that. It felt good to come through."

And come through he did, thanks to keeping the Padres off balance mostly in the range of 82-89 mph all night.

"I was keeping the ball down good. I try not to think about velocity ever," Haren said. "I got into trouble last year at the beginning of the year. I was trying to throw harder, when really my game is just location and keeping the ball in and out."

Mattingly said Haren's velocity was right at the point it needed to be.

"He's got to be hard enough. When he's at 85-86 it brings everything closer together. When he's at 88-89 it's hard enough with being able to go both sides with that cutter. He can make it go down, make it go sideways. He uses a split and he can go both sides of the plate," Mattingly explained. "That's what you want to be able to do, use both sides, change speeds, change depths. I hope he's that kind of guy every time out."

Up next

The Dodgers get to return to Dodger Stadium for a five-game homestand, but first have an off day Thursday, one of four off days in an 11-day span. Hyun-Jin Ryu gets the start in Friday's home opener against the Giants, facing Ryan Vogelsong for San Francisco. Matt Kemp will likely be activated before the game, but since the team doesn't like to say much before any moves are official, Mattingly didn't offer any guarantees just yet.

"We haven't activated him yet. We'll get there. Everything right now has been really good," Mattingly offered. "We anticipate that happening, but we're not there yet."