After losing two of three in their opening home series of the season thanks to a couple of lackluster pitching performances, the Mariners have announced the acquisition of right-handed pitcher Aaron Harang from the Colorado Rockies. The 34-year-old who has spent the last nine-plus seasons pitching in the National League for the Reds, Padres and Dodgers heads to the M's, reportedly with cash, for minor league right-handed reliever Steven Hensley.
In a corresponding move, reliever Kameron Loe, who has allowed 10 home runs in his last 19 2/3 innings pitched, six of those in 6 1/3 innings this season for Seattle, was designated for assignment in order to fit Harang on the 40-man and 25-man rosters.
As part of a crowded rotation in Los Angeles, Harang made five starts for the Dodgers in spring and was hit hard; an 8.20 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and .333 opponent's average in 18 2/3 innings meant that at the end of camp the Dodgers made the move to put Harang in the bullpen. Slightly after that move was known, he was traded to the Rockies for catcher Ramon Hernandez. But the Rockies designated the veteran right-hander for assignment immediately and announced that they would not be keeping him.
Harang -- who will turn 35 in less than a month -- has put up pretty decent numbers the past two seasons in California, combining for a 3.62 ERA in 350 1/3 innings and 59 starts with San Diego and Los Angeles. But his walk rate has increased as his strikeout rate has decreased, and that has made the fly ball pitcher more susceptible to the home run. Pitching in pitcher friendly home parks the past two seasons has certainly helped, and Safeco could continue that assistance when Harang takes the hill for Seattle, even though the Astros have made Safeco Field look like a launching pad the past couple of nights. Harang has made three career starts in "old Safeco" with great results: only one earned run, seven hits and six walks allowed in 20 1/3 innings, striking out 17 Mariners along the way. But the least impressive of those starts was also the most recent (2010), and it is a very small sample to work off of. He's also been bombed in his five career starts against the A's and Rangers. That is all in the past, too, of course. What we know now about Harang is that he was DFA'd last week and no club had stepped up to trade for him to Colorado's liking before the deal with the M's came about.
For those who remember the good ol' days, Harang is a much different pitcher now than he was back when he was winning 16 games and striking out 200-plus batters in back-to-back seasons with Cincinnati. His fastball velocity has decreased which has led to much lower K rates -- 6.6 the last three years after 7.7 in his six full seasons in the Reds' rotation -- and his BB/9 has steadily gone up, too. From his best mark of 2.0 in 2007 to a mark well below league average at 4.3 last year.
With Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan both struggling in the early going, it is likely that one of them is the odd man out here. Odds are that Beavan will be that man and that his being "out" will push him to the big league bullpen, at least for the time being. Beavan's spot in the rotation will be due up again on the 16th and it isn't likely that Harang will be ready for a full starter's workload by then, but if Beavan is in the bullpen the two could cover, assuming that game (following an off day) doesn't come after too much being asked of the bullpen in this Texas series.
What this move amounts to for Seattle to me is trying to stretch out the time before calling on any of their talented young arms. Jeremy Bonderman not getting the call likely means that the club didn't see him as ready to take these innings, but the same would go for Bonderman. The Mariners are just looking for someone that can do a better job at handling some starts as the club waits for Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and even Maurer to be ready to meet the big league challenge.
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