GOODYEAR, Ariz.: It’s just a mini sample, but Aaron Harang’s two innings to start the Indians’ 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday was the epitome of the difference between a veteran pitcher who can adjust on the fly and young hurlers still feeling their way at the big league level.
When Harang struggled to pitch out of the stretch after Mariners center fielder Abraham Almonte led off the game with a double, the 12-year veteran took a breath, realized what he was doing wrong and limited the damage.
“I felt good out there,” he said. “[But] when I got in the stretch, I felt like my timing was a little off. I felt like I was getting a little quick to the plate, rushing a little. But once I kind of got that under control, I was making pitches when I needed to. Then, the second inning was a lot faster, a lot easier, a lot smoother.”
After using 31 pitches over the first two innings of the game, the right-hander threw 15 more in the bullpen to reach his target for the day. On his next side bullpen day, the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder said he’ll focus on throwing out of the stretch to get his timing down.
“I think I was just getting a little jumpy,” Harang, 35, said. “But the fact that I recognized it early and knew I had to work on it a little bit made it easier. The times you don’t recognize it until after there’s a whole lot of chaos going on with multiple runs, then it’s going back to watch the video.
“That’s one of the advantages for me, I’m going to recognize this stuff over most of the young guys. They’re still learning themselves, learning their body, learning the feel of everything. They tend to go at a fast pace, where I’m able to understand that I need to take a step back and slow things down.”
But Harang is well aware that his role this spring is also to help along some of the young pitchers in camp such as right-handers Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco — the same guys he’s competing with for the vacant fifth spot in the rotation.
“I can be here as a bulletin board to ask questions and bounce ideas off,” he said. “It’s not so much a question and answer session as much as it comes in general conversation sitting in the dugout talking with the guys or once we start getting into shagging batting practice — that’s when you have a lot of time to kill.”
It’s a role that Harang has become accustomed to over the past seven seasons while playing for six different teams following eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
Being so early in camp, Francona admits it’s too early to make a fair assessment of Harang — or any of the pitchers — yet.
“He’s pitched [four] innings,” Francona said. “So, we’ll get to that. I think we just need to get guys stretched out, see the best of them as you get into the middle of March and you start seeing cuts, then things will start to formulate. And again, there’s always something that happens, the unexpected happens. So, we want to be prepared for that too. But I will say, he’s obviously come into camp ready to go, because he’s been really crisp in his first two outings.”
Unlike the youngsters, Harang knows his track record speaks for itself.
“They’ve seen me pitch, they know what I can do,” he said. “They know what they’re gonna get from me. Now, it’s just a matter of can I still go out there and keep doing it?”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.