Angels right-hander Dan Haren, who had given up 26 runs in his last 27 innings,… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)
It wasn't in the same league as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak of 2,632 consecutive games played, but it was important enough to Dan Haren to risk considerable injury to keep it alive.
But after getting shelled in five straight games, the streak had to end. Haren, who had not missed a start in eight-plus seasons, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday for the first time in his career, the right-hander finally yielding to the lower-back stiffness that has hampered him all season.
"That's probably the biggest reason I didn't do this earlier," Haren said of his major league-high 254 starts, with none missed because of injury, since 2005. "In eight or nine years, I've pitched through a lot of pain, and I pride myself in taking the ball every fifth day, regardless of how I feel."
Haren said he's pitched through worse pain, but after giving up 26 runs in 27 innings in his last five games and acknowledging he was pitching "at about 70%," he told Manager Mike Scission it was "time to take a step back."
Haren wasn't getting his normal lower-body drive. His usual pinpoint command was way off. Opponents are hitting .297 with 16 homers against him.
"The pain was manageable, but it was almost like my mind was telling me yes and my body was telling me no," said Haren, who is 6-8 with a 4.86 earned-run average. "I think I was doing a disservice to the team by going out there at less than 100%."
The 31-year-old Haren, who has thrown 215 innings or more in seven consecutive seasons, underwent an MRI test that revealed significant inflammation but no tears. He hopes to return July 19 at Detroit, the first day he can come off the DL.
"No doubt, when a guy who has pitched through as many things as Dan realizes he can't do it, you know it's significant," Scioscia said. "But the doctors feel this is very manageable."
Reliever Kevin Jepsen was called up from triple-A to replace Haren, but the Angels will add another starter — most likely a triple-A left-hander, Brad Mills or Greg Smith — for Sunday's game.
Whereas Haren can point to injury as a factor in his struggles, Scioscia said there are no such physical issues with Ervin Santana, the erratic right-hander who has been rocked for 13 earned runs and 13 hits in 61/3 innings in his last two starts and is 4-9 with a 5.75 ERA and 20 homers given up this season.
"Right now, he has to commit to a pitch, trust it, execute it and live with the results," Scioscia said. "When a pitcher's confidence isn't as high as it has been when he's able to do a lot of things, that's something you need to rediscover."
Sign of the times
The Angels have larger-than-life banners picturing six players outside the main stadium entrance. The one of underperforming Vernon Wells has been replaced by Mark Trumbo, who, entering Thursday's game, led the team with 20 homers and 55 runs batted in and was named to the All-Star team Sunday. The other five are Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Haren, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.