If Aaron Harang’s summer can be half as good as his December was, the San Diego Padres could be on to something.
Early in December, the big right-hander signed a one-year, $4 million deal to leave Cincinnati’s Great American Launching Pad Ballpark for his hometown and the much more forgiving Petco Park. Less than two weeks later, Harang’s wife gave birth to twins.
Of course, the Padres aren’t giving Harang the key to the city just yet. After all, he’s coming off three straight poor seasons in which he went a combined 18-38. San Diego hopes to get the dominant starter that won 16 games in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Meanwhile, general manager Jed Hoyer hopes that Harang’s suspicions that his 2008 arm troubles began during a series at Petco Park aren’t any type of foreshadowing. Harang told Don Norcross of the San Diego Union-Tribune that throwing 166 pitches during a four-game series against the Padres in May 2008 was the start of his undoing.
After tossing 103 pitches during a normal turn in the rotation, he came back on three days’ rest to throw another 63 pitches during a four-inning relief stint in an eventual 18-inning loss. He followed that by taking his regular turn in the rotation and getting torched for six runs and 10 hits in just four innings.
Harang says throwing nearly 250 pitches (not counting warm-up tosses) in eight days put too much strain on his arm and caused him to alter his mechanics. It’s a change he believes he’s never fully recovered from.
Enter Bud Black. The man who helped mold the Angels’ 2002 championship pitching staff and turned a group of Padre unknowns into one of baseball’s best staffs now gets to take a crack at rebuilding Harang.
Playing in one of the league’s most pitcher-friendly parks will certainly help. Harang’s home run numbers were pretty scary the past few years – including allowing 35 in 2008. Some of that had to do with the park he pitched most of his games in. Some of it had to do with arm fatigue and his attempts to combat it.
San Diego is hoping that after losing Jon Garland and Chris Young, their relatively minimal investment in Harang can pay dividends. If so, then Hoyer would have had a pretty good December in his own right.
Tasty news nuggets from Southern California baseball…
Low Visibility – Padres games may still be off-limits for satellite TV and AT&T U-Verse subscribers. The Union-Tribune reports that Cox Communications is in discusssions with other providers about making Channel 4 (the television home of the Padres) available. While no one is talking publicly about the negotiations, speculation is that the other providers are unhappy with the proposed carriage fees. For a team that has traditionally struggled with attendance, any expansion of the viewing audience has to be a welcome sight.
New Angel in the Outfield? – The Angels could be taking advantage of a potential NFL lockout to stock their minor league outfield. Former University of Washington quarterback and potential NFL draftee Jake Locker was drafted by the Angels in the 10th round of the 2009 draft. The Halos gave Locker a $250,000 signing bonus and hold his rights until 2015. If Locker does opt for baseball, Los Angeles could be looking at a potential outfield of top prospect Mike Trout to go along with Locker and Peter Bourjos
Tall Tale – Angels reliever Loek van Mil is head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates in Spring Training – literally. The Dutch right-hander is the tallest player in professional baseball history, standing 7-foot-1.
Elbowed Out – Dodgers’ starter Vicente Padilla was sent back to Los Angeles on Tuesday because of elbow discomfort. The symptoms are similar to the nerve problems that sidelined Padilla for two months last season. The team says this doesn’t appear to be as serious, but Padilla will undergo a precautionary MRI.
Titan-ic Honor – Former Dodger and Cal State Fullerton star Tim Wallach is among seven men being inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Wallach spent two seasons at Fullerton and was named Player of the Year in 1979 while leading the Titans to their first national championship. The enshrinement ceremony is July 3rd in Lubbock, Texas.