Dandy Dan

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For much of Dan Haren’s nine-year big-league career, he’s been overlooked. That’s really hard to do when you’re 6-foot-5 and weigh 215 pounds.

“I haven’t been in the spotlight because I’ve never played for teams that are high-profile like the [New York] Yankees or [Boston] Red Sox,’’ said Haren, a Southern California native who attended Bishop Amat High and later Pepperdine. “I was drafted by the [St. Louis] Cardinals, and they’re well-known, but I was a reliever and a part-time starter early in my career. Then I played in Oakland and Arizona. So it would be fair to say not a lot of people know who I am.”

This may have changed somewhat when Haren was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Angels last season. It was a year that included a career-best 235 innings, with 216 strikeouts, 54 walks and a 12-12 record.

A strike-thrower who can rush the baseball to the plate at 95 miles an hour, Haren was thrilled to come home and pitch before large crowds in Orange County.

Haren is currently 4-1 with a 1.23 earned-run average, and has pinpoint accuracy. In 44 innings, he has fanned 38 with seven walks.

The Angels’ pitching staff is deep and includes veterans Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro, but Haren and Jered Weaver (6-0 with a 0.99 ERA) are at the top of the class.

There are several effective pitching duos in the Junior Circuit, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Haren and Weaver, who paced the majors in strikeouts last season, are among the best.

The Angels are 16-12 and locked in a battle for the top spot in the AL West with the defending pennant-winning Texas Rangers.

Under Manager Mike Scioscia and owner Art Moreno, the Angels have become perennial contenders. Oddly, 2010 was a year to forget due in large measure to untimely injuries to first baseman Kendry Morales, and overall poor play.

Aside from Haren’s rookie season in 2003 when he worked just under 73 innings, and 2004 when he toiled in 46, he’s eclipsed 200 innings six straight times. That’s one reason why Haren’s been sought-after and now considered an elite pitcher.

Haren has worked six innings or better six times this season, and hasn’t allowed more than seven hits.

Haren owns a career mark of 95-75 with a 3.59 ERA, but what sets the right-hander apart is his control, fanning 1,289 with 331 walks.

Haren broke in with St. Louis where he compiled a 6-10 record, then posted consecutive 14-win seasons with Oakland in 2005 and 2006, before adding a 15-9 mark in 2007. Haren was shipped to Arizona and went 30-18 spanning 2008 and 2009.

Haren’s best outings this season include a complete-game, one-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and two walks versus the Cleveland Indians at home on April 12, a three-hit, one-run effort with five strikeouts and two walks against visiting Oakland on April 27, and a four-hit, one-run, six-strikeout performance with no walks against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 6.

Every start can’t be a gem, but if Haren is able to summon 20 to 25 quality starts, and fares average in the others, he’ll give the Angels a legitimate chance to win. That’s all anyone can ask.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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