You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, which makes things difficult when you're Aaron Harang, because, well:
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Nevertheless, Harang persevered on Wednesday, hurling 6⅔ scoreless innings for Atlanta, and taking a no-hitter into the seventh and striking out three in the effort. To call him an emergency starter would be to undersell the word "emergency." The Braves have famously suffered from multiple arm injuries this spring, losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgery, and Mike Minor to shoulder tendinitis (among other *clears throat* things). Even their offseason depth signing, Gavin Floyd, is on the shelf to start the season -- though that was known ahead of time. What of their true offseason prize, Ervin Santana, you ask? Not on the major league roster due to being signed so late.
With 60 percent of their starting rotation out of commission and the cavalry not quite on the way, Atlanta turned to Harang, signing him on March 24 after he was cut loose from Cleveland, where he had been in camp on a minor league contract. While he wasn't good enough to steal the fifth spot in Cleveland's rotation away from Carlos Carrasco, Harang more than qualified for the third spot in Atlanta, which is relying on prospects David Hale (who many see as a future reliever) and Gus Schlosser (who I just made up right now, maybe) to fill out its rotation. Harang struggled in March, turning in a 4.91 ERA with as many earned runs as strikeouts (eight) in 14⅔ innings while facing competition that rated somewhere between Triple-A and MLB, according Baseball Reference's most excellent Opponent Quality rater, perhaps making it understandable why Cleveland let him go.
Despite that rough spring, though, Harang had some positives to take away from this start beyond just the results. He averaged 91.63 mph on his fastball on Wednesday, almost a mile and a half faster than his average in 2013. In fact, according to Brooks Baseball, Harang was throwing at least a mile per hour faster on all of his pitches, compared to his 2013 averages. Obviously it is early in the season, which means Harang could tire and return to his 2013 averages, but for someone who throws around 75 percent fastballs/sinkers, adding an extra mile per hour can help quite a bit.
It's impossible to forecast how it will all shake out for Harang in Atlanta, as the return of Minor, Floyd and Santana over the course of the season could push him out of the rotation. That's a bridge the Braves will cost when they come to it, though, and pitching depth is a good problem to have. For now, Harang will keep AH!!
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Harang will keep SONOFA-
Photo credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
/composes self, but still disheveled
Harang will keep pushing for a permanent rotation spot, be it in Atlanta or somewhere else.