Dodgers’ Aaron Harang tries to maintain mind-set of a starting pitcher


MESA, Ariz. — Aaron Harang’s first start of the spring didn’t go his way. The right-hander gave up four runs, five hits and a walk — and that was just the first inning — in the Dodgers’ 11-7 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

For a guy locked in a five-man battle for one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ rotation, it was an inauspicious debut. But Harang appeared unconcerned afterward.

“I’m going to try not to worry about that. I need to do what I need to do to get ready, and that’s make sure that all my pitches are fine-tuned,” said Harang, who has been experimenting with special instructor Sandy Koufax on a new grip for his curveball. “I’m just going about my business, making sure mechanically I’m where I need to be and just working on pitches and figuring out what I need to work on more.”

Harang was much better in the second inning, retiring the side on nine pitches. Still, he conceded it’s going to take a lot more innings like that to wrest a starter’s job from Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

“I have to keep the mental mind-set that I’m going to be a starter,” Harang said. “There’s all sorts of scenarios out there right now, and if guys are traded, we’re all starters.

“If we do get sent somewhere else and they want us to be a starter, we can’t have the mind-set of, ‘Oh I’m going to be a reliever now.’ ”

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly promised that one outing won’t make much of an impact on who makes the team. “We’re not going to judge any of these guys first time out of the gate,” he said. But the bullpen, he added, could play a big part in helping determine which pitcher he’ll keep.

With everyone but Ryu out of minor league options, the Dodgers can’t send any of their prospective starters down, making a trade or least a temporary relief role a likely option for whoever fails to make the rotation.

“It would be tougher for certain guys,” Mattingly said of the transition. “Aaron Harang doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that pitches out of the pen. To me he’s more of a guy that paints. He keeps you in the game. He’s just not that guy that’s going in and overpower you.

“To me he’d be more of a long reliever type. And in the National League that’s never more than two innings. So it’s really not a great role.”

Short hops

Matt Kemp faced live pitching in batting practice for the second consecutive morning. Carl Crawford, the team’s other outfielder who is rehabilitating, tracked pitches — but didn’t swing — during a bullpen session. Mattingly said both are making progress but there is no timetable to get either into the lineup. … Infielder Luis Cruz spent part of Tuesday at a hospital hooked up to an IV bag because of an intestinal illness. After reporting to camp early Wednesday, Cruz was sent back home without working out. Mattingly is hopeful Cruz will be able to play Thursday. …The activities of outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. were also limited for a second straight day because of a sore left groin.