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Dan Haren said yesterday was “one of the most anxious days” of his life


If you thought the drama involving Dan Haren yesterday was crazy from an outsider’s perspective, just imagine being the guy in the middle of it all.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com caught up with Haren late last night after the proposed deal with the Cubs fell through and the Angels bought out his $15.5 million option for 2013, making him a free agent.

Haren actually followed the proceedings via Twitter, which he admitted was pretty nerve-wracking given the constant conflicting reports throughout the night.

“I don’t even know what to think, really,” Haren said in a phone interview with MLB.com late Friday night, moments after his roller-coaster day was finally over. “This day has been one of the most anxious days of my life, definitely of my baseball career. I’ve been glued to my phone all day. I’ve tried to stay as busy as I could, but the fact of the matter is I was trying to keep up with what was going on.”

Once reports surfaced regarding the trade, Haren and his wife warmed to the idea of spending some time in Chicago. However, it wasn’t long before Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told him that the deal was off and that his option was being declined.

“I don’t know what went on on his end, but I knew he wasn’t going to make any quick decisions,” Haren said. “I had the feeling that it was going to go on throughout the day, and it definitely did. I knew the deadline was today. My agent was in town and we were kind of going through it together. Like I said, it was a very anxious day for me, for my wife, just not knowing where our next city would be. I thought for sure it would be somewhere else. I thought for sure I’d know today where I’d be playing next year, but that’s obviously not the case.”

Haren is interested in returning to the Angels and would do so at a discounted rate, but Dipoto said last night that the possibility isn’t all that likely. On the bright side, the 32-year-old right-hander got a $3.5 million buyout for his troubles and should fetch a multi-year deal as one of the top starting pitchers available in free agency, even coming off a down year.

Keeping Zack Greinke is expected to be the Angels’ No. 1 priority this offseason, even though Dipoto says that he isn’t “isolated” on signing him. It’s going to take big money to keep Greinke in the fold and he appears to have quite a bit of leverage with the Angels at the moment, as their projected rotation for 2013 currently includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards and Barry Enright.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.