Inside Pitch: Haren Making Strides

Fair or not, Dan Haren knows there will always be comparisons made between his performance and that of Mark Mulder.

It's only natural, especially since the other two players the A's acquired for Mulder -- reliever Kiko Calero (disabled list) and first baseman Daric Barton (still in A ball) -- aren't on television every day.

One-quarter of the way through Dan Haren's first season with the A's, here are the numbers: nine starts, four quality starts, one win, six losses and a 5.19 ERA.

"I know my record stinks," Haren said. "But I'm getting better and I think I've taken a step forward, especially after getting banged around against Texas and a rough outing against Boston. This was a tough loss (May 21 against the Giants), but I keep trying to get better."

Haren was becoming too reliant on his off-speed pitches. He focused in his last start on throwing more fastballs and keeping the ball down in the zone. Haren has worked hard with pitching coach Curt Young, throwing two side sessions instead of the normal one.

"He's riding that rookie roller-coaster," A's manager Ken Macha said. "A couple good games, a couple bad games. (Against the Giants) was a good game. He kept us right in there the whole time. He's got good stuff, 93-94 at times, strikeouts with his split."

The A's Playing Fundamental Baseball?

Situational hitting was a big buzzword for the A's during spring training. But since the start of the season, it was rarely used, unless the words "lack of" were part of the sentence.

But as the A's offense continued to awaken, it was no coincidence that improved situational hitting is part of the reason.

The A's hit three sacrifice flies Friday night, tying a team record, then got the big blow via a three-run homer by Keith Ginter, to take the opener of a three-game series against the cross-bay rival Giants.

The fourth inning was an excellent example. Bobby Kielty, back in the lineup after missing the previous three games, started the inning with a double.

Scott Hatteberg grounded to the right side, moving Kielty over to third. Ginter then hit the ball into the air, deep enough in right field to score a run.

Ginter hit two sacrifice flies and Hatteberg also hit one. Marco Scutaro drew a bases loaded walk to score another run.


--RHP Kirk Saarloos, who has started all year, worked out of the bullpen over the weekend because the A's were short of relievers.

--RHP Justin Duchscherer, who hasn't pitched since May 9, was expected to be available Friday after receiving an epidural earlier in the week. But his back still wasn't feeling well and the A's will need to decide soon whether to put Duchscherer on the disabled list. He is hoping to be available on Tuesday for the A's game in Tampa Bay.

--OF Bobby Kielty, after missing three games, returned to the lineup Friday and had a perfect day: three singles, one double, an intentional walk, plus a superb sliding catch in right field that he turned into a double play.

--RHP Octavio Dotel was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a stained right elbow. The A's were relieved their top reliever won't need surgery, but he's likely to need more than 15 days. Dotel's elbow has given him pain all season.

--RHP Huston Street will be the A's closer with Octavio Dotel on the disabled list. But the A's will be extra careful with the 21-year-old rookie, and would prefer not to use him in consecutive games. In a non-save situation Friday, a four-run lead, Street worked the ninth to close out the game.

--CF Mark Kotsay started off Wednesday's game against David Wells with a bunt single, his first of the season.

--RHP Seth Etherton set a career high with 7 1/3 innings on Wednesday and was a savior for the A's depleted bullpen. Etherton recorded the win in his first major-league start since Sept. 2003. After the game, Etherton was scheduled to fly home to Laguna Beach. His wife, Summer, has an appointment Thursday to be induced into labor with the couple's first son.

--1B Scott Hatteberg recorded a three-hit game Wednesday and went 9-for-22 (.409) on the six-game homestand.

--RHP Kiko Calero is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, but the A's don't expect him back until sometime in June.

--In a 12-game stretch against New York and Boston, the A's went 3-9. Last year, they went 3-15 against the AL East's twin juggernauts.

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