DETROIT -- Dan Haren has heard all the talk -- about how unreliable he's been this season, how concerning his struggles are, given his age and workload, and how his first half may have prompted the Angels to desire another starting pitcher before the Trade Deadline. His response? "I think people kind of forget how good I can be," said Haren, who feels he's over the lower-back stiffness that has bothered him for most of the season. "It's been kind of frustrating hearing all that stuff. I went on the [disabled list] to try and help this team, to get better for the last 12 starts I'll make because I know those are going to be very important. I kind of had to swallow my pride and just get better."
Going on the DL and missing a start for the first time in his 10-year career wasn't an easy decision, but after posting a 4.86 ERA and giving up 16 homers through his first 17 starts, Haren felt he had little choice. Now he believes he's ready to return against the Rangers this weekend, preferably Sunday. "That would obviously give me an extra day, being that I pitched on Monday," said Haren, who was placed on the DL July 5. "It would enable me to throw the two bullpens [Wednesday and Friday] and make sure my mechanics are in sync. But I wouldn't come back if I didn't think I could help this team out." Haren felt "off" with his mechanics during his rehab outing with Class A Inland Empire on Monday, when he gave up two runs in five innings, but his back didn't flare up and he felt really good with an intense 40-pitch bullpen session he threw at Comerica Park on Wednesday. "Today I felt great," he said. "It's not necessarily that I'm going to come back throwing 95 mph -- but the quality of the pitch, the angle on my fastball, the angle on my cutter, being able to finish better. Last year, I didn't throw it especially harder than I did this year, but I was able to locate. That's my game." Haren has been taking some stronger medication to combat the inflammation in his lower back, which had been uncommonly stiff since the beginning of the season. Before, his back was "stuck," and now, he says, it feels "night and day." "The only issue for me has been getting mechanically back to where I wanted to be," Haren added, mostly regarding his landing foot. "I think that short term we're very comfortable with the fact that a lot of this back issue cleared up," manager Mike Scioscia said. "No one has a crystal ball to see what's going to happen 10 starts, 100 starts down the road, but right now, we're pretty confident that at least those back issues are behind him."