Aaron Harang, shown during a spring training game, is one of several pitchers… (Matt York / Associated Press )
PHOENIX -- Most of the Dodgers had Monday off. But it was a work day for right-hander Aaron Harang, who is part of a crowded field battling for a spot in the starting rotation.
It was Harang's scheduled day to pitch so he threw three innings in a minor league camp game in front of Manager Don Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and -- perhaps most significantly -- scouts from the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Orioles are also flush with starting pitchers, with eight legitimate candidates for their five-man rotation. But Baltimore is always on the lookout for inexpensive help and the Dodgers may soon be motivated to move Harang, probably offering to pick up a big part of the $9 million he is owed over the next two years.
The Brewers’ pitching situation is a bit more uncertain, especially with ace Yovani Gallardo dealing with a groin strain that has made his availability for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in question.
Two other candidates for the Brewers rotation – right-handers Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers – have fewer than 50 innings of big-league experience.
The Dodgers are set at the top of their rotation with former Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Josh Beckett, who hasn't allowed a run in two spring appearances, will likely begin the season as the No. 3 starter, leaving South Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu, left-handers Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano and righties Chad Billingsley and Harang competing for the last two slots.
Only Ryu can be sent to the minors and even he has to approve the move first, meaning the Dodgers stand to lose whoever doesn't make the team. Mattingly would like to keep one of those pitchers as insurance against injury, using him out of the bullpen. And he has already said he doesn't think Harang's repertoire will play in relief.
Harang, 34, made 31 starts for the Dodgers last year, going 10-10 with a career-best 3.61 ERA in 179 2/3 innings. He was a workhorse earlier in his career, twice throwing more than 230 innings in a season for the Cincinnati Reds and leading the National League with 16 wins in 2006.
Harang threw 45 pitches Monday, giving up just a second-inning double. He pitched the third inning out of the stretch, then retired to the bullpen to throw some more, feeling like he was rushing his delivery out of the stretch.
He also worked quite a bit on his curveball, trying to put in practice some advice he received last month from special instructor Sandy Koufax.
"I feel like my changeup's been good. So I wanted to work on the slider and curveball," he said. "I really wanted to focus on it today."
As for pitching against minor leaguers on the back field, Harang said he welcomed the low-key atmosphere and was happy leaving the Cactus League games for up-and-coming pitchers looking to impress the coaches.
"It’s almost harder to come over here because you know they [the minor leaguers] are looking to ambush you a little bit," he joked. "It’s always nice to come back here and work because there’s not as much focus on the outcome of the game.
"Plus it gives other guys that are trying to really been seen, it gives them some innings over there."
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