If Dan Haren continues to pitch like he did Friday night, he’ll probably be a Dodger again next season.
Haren won for the third time in four starts, limiting the New York Mets to a run and three hits over seven innings in a 6-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.
Haren, who turns 34 next month, has pitched 150 innings this season. By pitching 30 more, he’ll reach the 180-inning benchmark necessary to turn his $10-million team option for next season into a player option. In that case, the decision to return next season will be his, not the Dodgers’.
“I couldn’t care less,” Haren said. “It might sound stupid, but who knows if I would want to play next year? I’d rather throw 179 2/3 and us win the division, honestly. I’ve made enough money in my life. I’ve been blessed. Hopefully, my kids’ kids are set up. It’s a lot of money, I don’t want to devalue that and sound like a snob, but my goal is for this team to achieve what we set out to.”
Haren, who improved to 11-10, figures to make six more starts in the regular season.
“That’s like the last thing on my mind, honestly,” Haren said. “I’m just trying to pitch good games, whatever else happens, happens. I just want to give us a chance every time, how many innings I throw, I don’t really care. I just want to be good for the team, that’s it.”
Haren said he feels an added sense of responsibility toward the team because of the rotation has been depleted by injuries. Hyun-Jin Ryu is on the disabled list with a strained buttock muscle and Josh Beckett is not expected to pitch again this season because of a torn labrum in his hip.
The Dodgers don’t have any prospects who are believed to be ready to start in a pennant race.
“I just have to do my part,” Haren said.
Recently acquired Roberto Hernandez, who replaced Beckett, has pitched three times for the Dodgers and averaged fewer than six innings per start. The other newcomer, Kevin Correia, has made two starts in place of Ryu in which he threw a total of 11 innings.
The trend threatens to overburden the bullpen.
Manager Don Mattingly admitted he is already carefully monitoring how often he uses left-hander J.P. Howell, who made his team-leading 57th appearance Friday night.
Howell is currently the Dodgers’ only left-handed reliever. A short outing by a starting pitcher could force Mattingly to use Howell in a loss for the sake of finishing a game. A start like Haren’s spares Mattingly from having to do that.
Haren’s latest performance was important not only because it prevented the frivolous use of the Dodgers’ relievers. The start was important for Haren’s confidence too.
“It felt good,” Haren said.
While Haren won consecutive starts on Aug. 6 and 12, he lasted only three innings in a defeat to Milwaukee last week.
In that game against the Brewers, he looked uncomfortably similar to how he did in his five-start losing streak from July 5-23.
“I tried not to think about it,” Haren said. “Things were looking so good before that, I just tried to flush it out and move on.
“I felt really good coming out of the bullpen today. My stuff was good.”
Still, Haren served up a home run to the first batter he faced in the game, Curtis Granderson. The home run was the seventh Haren has given up in the first inning this season.
“I was really mad when it happened,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is put the team in a hole three pitches into the game.”
Haren immediately settled down. For the remainder of his time in the game, he faced only one batter more than the minimum.
“Dan looked like he had depth tonight, looked like he was able to locate,” Mattingly said. “First couple hitters, three, four, five, he was kind of getting behind. After that, he kind of just got in a groove and was getting the ball where he wanted to.”
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez