Leaning toward retirement, Dan Haren will make playoff push for Cubs


Leaning toward retirement, Dan Haren will make playoff push for Cubs

MILWAUKEE — Dan Haren is leaning toward retirement after making these 11 high-pressure starts for the Cubs.

“I would say right now the chances are that this will probably be it,” Haren said Sunday morning inside Miller Park’s visiting clubhouse. “But I don’t want to say this is it and then pull a Brett Favre.”

The fact that Haren is still pitching — as a hired gun for the Cubs in a pennant race — is sort of crazy. Considering that Theo Epstein’s front office let the Carlos Marmol deal with the Los Angeles Angels collapse over concerns about Haren’s medical background after the 2012 season. 

The Cubs probably would have flipped Haren for prospects during the middle of a 96-loss season, which saw Marmol lose the closer’s job in early April 2013.

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Now the Cubs are banking on Haren to stabilize their rotation, acquiring the battle-tested veteran from the Miami Marlins during the final hours before the July 31 trade deadline.

Haren — a bright, easy-going guy who stood in front of his locker chatting with reporters — hasn’t spoken to any Cubs officials about why they killed that trade with the Angels.  

“I exchanged some texts with Theo the last few days,” Haren said. “He expressed how excited he was to have me. But, no, I never really revisited that. I still don’t know the particulars of what went down.

“I don’t know if my medical reports were bad. But I’ve always taken pride in making all my starts. I’ve made a lot of starts for a lot of years in a row. I’ve had a knack throughout my career for pitching every five days, no matter what.”

Haren — who will turn 35 in September — is now on track to hit 30 starts and double-digit victories for the 11th consecutive season. Three years ago, the Cubs had reservations about how his hip and back would hold up (conditions that might be traced back to when he pitched at Pepperdine University).

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“I’ve had issues, but nothing that’s kept me off the field,” Haren said. “When you have as many innings as I’ve had, and as much wear and tear, the medical report’s going to be pretty long when you get to this point in my career.

“It might scare some people. But at this point, I’m here for two months, and I plan on making all my starts. I’ll make the most of the time here, for sure.”

Haren went 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts for the Marlins, getting by with guts, experience and the diminished velocity reflected on his Twitter handle: @ithrow88.

“I know I’m not the flamethrower I once was,” Haren said, “but I’ve gotten a lot smarter as a pitcher. I’ve gotten a lot better at putting together scouting reports and sticking to them and being able to locate pitches.

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“I expect to do the same thing I’ve pretty much been doing all year, which is (keeping) the team in the game almost every time I’m out there. We got a young, exciting offense. It will be fun to get out there.”

Haren, a three-time All-Star, will make his first start in a Cubs uniform on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. There were bigger names, longer-term assets and harder throwers out there, but the Cubs needed someone with that bulldog mentality.

“The Marlins weren’t really going anywhere,” Haren said, “so I’m definitely thankful for the Cubs grabbing me and putting me in a pennant race.”

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.