PITTSBURGH -- Before Dan Haren signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, rumors still persisted that the team was intent on landing Masahiro Tanaka. He knew that Chad Billingsley was on the comeback trail. There was a pretty good chance he'd be looking over his shoulder at some point in the season if he wasn't performing well.
Funny thing is, even though Tanaka landed with the New York Yankees and Billingsley's comeback ended with yet another elbow surgery, Haren finds himself wondering whether he has a role in the Dodgers' rotation after all.
After another rough first inning put the Dodgers in a hole they couldn't climb out of in Wednesday night's 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Haren admitted he was told the Dodgers will skip at least his next start. That means he won't pitch again until Aug. 2 at the earliest and there's a rather important date between now and then: the July 31 trade deadline.
The Dodgers would like to add a starting pitcher and it appears Haren's spot is the one they're targeting now that Josh Beckett is off the disabled list.
Haren, 33, has been around a long time. He knows how these things work. He has seen plenty of older teammates come and go.
He's 8-8 with a 4.49 ERA and his season is heading the wrong way after such a promising April (4-0, 2.03 ERA). The Dodgers consider themselves serious World Series contenders and they're probably not going to settle for the kinds of starts Haren has been giving them lately.
He is 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA since the end of April. If he pitches 58 more innings this season, an incentive in his contract will trigger a 2015 option at $10 million. That could also influence the Dodgers' decision on whether to keep him in the rotation.
He was asked if he'll be pitching for his spot in the rotation.
"Well, it's too late to say that now. I won't be pitching again for a while," Haren said. "I don't know, it's just really gotten away from me the last four times out. I don't know what to say. I was having a great year, I felt great about everything the way I was throwing the ball just a few starts ago and then it's just kind of snowballed."
Out of respect for Haren, a 12-year veteran and former All-Star who used to be among the most durable, effective pitchers in the game, manager Don Mattingly was vague when asked about Haren's role moving forward.
"Danny has kept us in a lot of games. The last couple haven't been great," Mattingly said. "Again, now is not the time to sit here and discuss Danny's next start or his future or anything else."
Even if the Dodgers can't land a starting pitcher between now and the 31st, they do have a few in-house options, though none is an obvious upgrade. They could go with Paul Maholm, though he hardly has been better than Haren. All the candidates at Triple-A -- Zach Lee (4.98 ERA), Red Patterson (5.40), Matt Magill (5.10) -- have inflated numbers, but they pitch in a hitter's league. There's also Double-A lefty Chris Reed, who is 4-6 with a 3.19 ERA.
Satchel Paige is famous for saying, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
The thing about baseball is that, if you don't perform, something or someone is always gaining on you. You just don't always know who it is.