Dan Haren blames shortest start since 2005 on stiff back

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Dan Haren didn’t make it out of the fourth inning Tuesday night against the punchless Twins lineup, coughing up five runs on eight hits in his shortest start since 2005.

Afterward he revealed the lower back stiffness that came on during his pregame bullpen session made it tough to finish pitches, which helps explain how Haren failed to record a strikeout in a start for the first time since 2004.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com notes that Haren has pitched 10 seasons in the majors without going on the disabled list and he’s trying to avoid doing so now, downplaying the severity of the injury. His next start will be worth watching and he gets another extremely favorable matchup at home versus the A’s.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.