It’s unclear just how much Aaron Harang has left in the figurative tank, but at least the Braves won’t have to worry about the just-signed veteran getting too amped to pitch when he starts the April 8 home opener against the Mets.
Harang, 35, started five consecutive opening days for the Cincinnati Reds through 2010, tying a franchise record.
The injury-altered Braves signed the big right-hander Monday, a day after he was released by the Indians. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Tuesday that Harang would start the third game, April 2 in Milwaukee, and the home opener after the six-game trip against the Brewers and Nationals.
“I’m going to come in and give them innings, give the team a chance to win every time I take the mound,” Harang said Wednesday, when he met most of his new teammates (the Braves had a road game Tuesday when he flew in from Arizona). He’ll make his Braves debut with a spring-training start Thursday against the Tigers.
Because of injuries and two off-days in the early schedule, the Braves will go with a four-man rotation — Teheran, second-year left-hander Alex Wood, Harang, and either of rookies David Hale or Gus Schlosser — until they add Ervin Santana in the second week of the season, probably April 12.
Harang was happy when he first heard of the Braves’ interest Sunday.
“It’s a good ballpark to pitch in,” he said of Turner Field, where he has a 3.41 ERA in five starts. “Good fan base. I’m really excited to be here. I was excited when my agent called me and told me they were talking to the team.”
Harang had a 2.00 ERA in four major league games (two starts) for the Indians this spring and pitched in two minor league games. He lasted six innings and threw 95 pitches Friday. Braves general manager Frank Wren said his scouts reported Harang’s fastball at 90-91 mph as a starter this spring and 92-93 as a reliever.
Although he was only 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 26 starts last season for Seattle and the Mets, he was solid the previous two seasons, including 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 179 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in 2012.
“I feel really strong,” said Harang, who’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds and looks every ounce of it. “I feel like physically this is probably the best I’ve felt throughout a whole spring.”
As for his velocity, he said, “My agents put together something last year that showed my average velocity over the past five years has maybe dropped like .4 miles an hour. … Physically I feel really good. I feel like I was throwing well in spring and feel ready to go for the season.”
The Braves signed him to a one-year major league contract a few hours after releasing veteran Freddy Garcia. Braves officials said Harang was a better overall fit than Garcia for the team’s current needs, but didn’t elaborate.
With a fastball that’s 6-8 mph quicker than Garcia’s, Harang figures to be a better bullpen option than Garcia would’ve been if the Braves move him there when they get starters Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd off the disabled list in late April.
Gerald Laird has known Harang since both played in the Oakland Athletics minor league system in 2001, Laird in Single-A and Harang in Double-A.
“I was a kid then,” Laird said. “He threw probably 92-95 (mph). He still gets it up there a little bit, but he was more consistently 94-95 back then. He’s been around a while. I like the pickup.”