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Dan Haren gives Dodgers experience in back of rotation

SportsLos Angeles DodgersMajor League BaseballBaseballDan HarenOakland AthleticsWashington Nationals

PHOENIX — There's a massive painting hanging in a hallway of Dan Haren's home in Irvine that shows the pitcher, mid-windup, in the uniforms of the first four major league teams for which he played.

It was meant to be a memento of an All-Star career. But it was outdated shortly after the paint dried.

"Little did I know," said Haren, who has pitched for two more teams since hanging the artwork in his home two seasons ago.

This spring he's wearing the blue script of the Dodgers, who signed him to a one-year, $10-million free-agent contract in November. Last year, he was with the Washington Nationals and before that he pitched for the Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

That's a lot of packing for a guy who has averaged more than 13 victories and 214 innings in his nine big league full seasons.

"It's not like I didn't want to stay," Haren said. "I had signed an extension with the A's. I signed an extension with the Diamondbacks. And I would have signed an extension with the Angels too.

"It's been kind of a different thing with every team."

It will be a different thing with the Dodgers, too. Because although Haren had been expected to carry teams from the top of the rotation most of his career, with the Dodgers he'll be a complementary piece, pitching behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

At age 33, he has gone from being an ace to being just another card in Manager Don Mattingly's deck. But for a guy seeking stability and another shot at the playoffs after a seven-year absence, that role suits him just fine.

"I think winning is very important to him," said General Manager Ned Colletti, who had a frank talk with Haren about his expectations before offering him a contract. "Having a chance to win and a chance to get back to October, I think those things play into somebody that's pitched as much as he's pitched."

The general manager shares those desires, of course. However, that's not all he shares with his newest pitcher. Colletti is an avid hockey fan who once covered the NHL as a young sportswriter and Haren played the game as a youngster in the San Gabriel Valley.

"My dad had season tickets to the Kings. So I loved hockey growing up," said Haren, who played roller hockey through his junior year in high school.

He turned to baseball after that, which proved to be a wise and lucrative decision when the Cardinals selected him in the second round of the 2001 draft. Two years later he was in the big leagues, where he earned his first victory by outpitching Kevin Brown at Dodger Stadium.

Two years later he was traded for the first time, going to Oakland, where he became a workhorse, winning 43 games and averaging 221 innings per season over three years. From there it was on to Arizona, where he won 30 games and threw 445 innings in two full seasons before being sent to the Angels, for whom he set career highs with 16 victories and 238 innings in 2011.

Even that wasn't enough to persuade the pitching-poor Angels to make him part of their future. Instead, Haren was allowed to leave as a free agent, signing with Washington where, after a poor first half, he helped keep the Nationals in the pennant race with a 6-3 record and a 3.14 earned-run average in his last 13 starts.

His reward? Another free-agent ticket out of town and another off-season spent trying to convince teams he's the kind of pitcher they need.

"I really just focus on providing a little bit of durability, stability to the back part of the rotation," said Haren, who has given up a run and six hits in six exhibition innings. "I just want to go out and do my job, keep the team in the game, stuff I've done my whole career.

"This is the same kind of conversation I had with Ned when I signed here. I told him what I thought I offered to the team and he in turn told me what he wanted in a pitcher. And that's kind of what made me sign with the Dodgers."

As for what made the Dodgers sign him, Colletti said he was familiar with Haren and had come to respect his work after watching him pitch for eight seasons on the West Coast. And the right-hander's strong finish last season showed he had overcome the shoulder inflammation that landed him on the disabled list in June.

"We're looking for somebody that can give us competitive innings," Colletti said. "We don't expect 230 innings. If he gets in or around 200, that would be great."

For Haren, too. Because after spending most of his career touring the majors, he asked the Dodgers for a little insurance in the form of a vesting option. If he pitches at least 180 innings this season, it will be his decision whether he returns next season.

Even so, don't expect him to begin clearing a space for a new painting.

"I'm not going to get one of those anytime soon," he promises. "Because I don't know where I'll be next year or the year after."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

year after."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsLos Angeles DodgersMajor League BaseballBaseballDan HarenOakland AthleticsWashington Nationals
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