Dan Haren’s initial reaction upon discovering he would be starting tonight’s All-Star Game had nothing to do with how to pitch to National League leadoff man Jose Reyes or what to do with Barry Bonds.
The only anxiety he felt had to do with what would happen if he had to step into the batter’s box himself.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” Haren said Monday with a smile. “And my first thought was ‘I hope I don’t have to hit.’”
American League manager Jim Leyland quickly assured the A’s right-hander he would not be needing a bat. But Leyland may change his mind if the AL bats around in the top of the first.
Regardless, Haren has proven he is more than capable of handling anything from the mound. The 26-year-old Monterey Park native is 10-3 with a 2.30 ERA this season and will be in the spotlight in his first career All-Star appearance. He beat out Cleveland ace and Vallejo native C.C. Sabathia (who is 12-3 with a 3.58 ERA this season), Boston Red Sox star Josh Beckett (12-2, 3.44 ERA) and Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (10-3, 3.14 ERA) for the honor.
“Getting to start this close to home in Oakland is going to be awesome,” Haren said. “I’ll be in awe at first of the team playing behind me … and I’m just going to have as much fun with it as I can.”
Oakland acquired Haren as part of a package when it shipped Mark Mulder to St. Louis and National League All-Star (and Cardinals) manager Tony La Russa remembered how difficult it was to part ways with the promising right-hander.
“It’s the closest [St. Louis pitching coach] Dave Duncan and I have ever come to having a disruption in our relationship,” La Russa said. “He was adamant that Dan be part of the St. Louis organization. We really liked him and Dave loved him.”
Haren relies on a low-90s fastball, heavy sinker and the ability to control his curveball to confound hitters. He went a combined 28-25 in his first two years with the A’s while occasionally struggling with his self confidence, but now has emerged into an ace in full bloom.
“Dan’s real tough,” Texas Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. “We have a lot of great pitchers on this team and for him to be named starter is a great honor. And he deserves it.”
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