Aaron Harang says struggles stemmed from 2008 relief appearance

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It wasn’t too long ago that Aaron Harang was considered one of baseball’s most durable workhorses. For example, he tossed a total of 677 2/3 innings between 2005-07. Only Brandon Webb and Johan Santana logged more innings during that time period.

Harang had a very respectable 3.50 ERA over his first 11 starts into the 2008 season, but the big right-hander tells Don Norcross of the San Diego Union-Tribune that everything changed after Dusty Baker asked him to make a four-inning relief appearance against the Padres on just three days’ rest.

Including his next start four days later, Harang threw a total of 239 pitches in three games over the course of eight days. The damage was done.

“What it did,” said Harang, “is fatigue me beyond the point of recovery. I started to change my arm angle to compensate for the fatigue and that’s when my forearm started to bother me.”

Harang tried to pitch through the injury initially, but eventually spent over a month on the disabled list later that summer. He has an ugly 5.00 ERA over 379 2/3 innings since the relief appearance in question. While he feels healthy now, he’s still trying to get his mechanics back in order.

“I feel like I’ve never been able to get back to the consistent, repetitive mechanics that I had,” he said. “The last couple of years have been, ‘Try this, try that. Move your arm angle out a little.’

“I’ve had a couple of my old coaches call me, asking, ‘What are you doing? You had so much success before doing the same thing. Now, all of a sudden, you’re turning your back on that?’

“I got away from my main thing, which is throwing my fastball (primarily) and throwing everything off that. I got to thinking I’m going to trick people and it just didn’t work.”

Harang may never be a top-of-the-rotation starter again, but there’s reason for optimism now that he has signed with his hometown Padres. He should find PETCO Park to be a much more forgiving environment than Great American Ballpark ever was. The good news is that Harang’s secondary numbers haven’t been nearly as ugly as his ERA, so it might not take much for him to be a real bargain for Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.