LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.--- The Braves continued to reshape their pitching staff on the fly Monday, signing veteran starter Aaron Harang to a one-year contract only hours after he was released by the Indians.
Harang, 35, will fill a spot in the rotation at least until the Braves get starters Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd off the disabled list in late April. He had a 2.00 ERA in four games (two starts) for the Indians this spring, and Harang requested his release after being told Sunday that he wouldn't make Cleveland's opening-day roster.
He'll take a spot in an Atlanta rotation that recently had seemed destined for veteran Freddy Garcia, who was released Monday as the Braves were finalizing the deal with Harang.
"We did not want to go into the season with really four young guys (in the starting rotation) and just not have any coverage for them," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "This gives us someone who's kind of been through the battles, knows what to do, knows how to handle things. Similar to Freddy, but we just felt he was a better fit for us."
Harang joins an opening-day rotation led by Julio Teheran and left-hander Alex Wood and also expected to include rookie David Hale, who was charged with six runs in 5-1/3 innings Monday in a 7-5 loss to the Astros. The other option for the opening-day rotation was sidearmer Gus Schlosser, a non-roster invitee with no big-league experience.
"That's a good piece for us," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the Harang. "It makes us a pretty good pitching staff... I wasn't too excited about having Teheran be the veteran guy when the season started."
"(Harang) a guy who, every time we faced him when he was with Cincinnati and other places, he gave his team a good chance to win."
The Braves will get by with four starters until the second week of the season, when they'll add former American League All-Star Ervin Santana to the rotation.
Santana was signed to fill the gaping hole in the rotation three days after planned opening-day starter Kris Medlen blew out his elbow March 9. Braves starter Brandon Beachy tore up his elbow the day after Medlen did, and each had season-ending Tommy John surgery last week.
After giving Garcia his unconditional release, Wren said before Monday night's game that the team was exploring options and could add a pitcher released by another team. At the time, the Braves were working to complete the deal with Harang, which was announced in the sixth inning.
He had a minor-league contract with Cleveland, but signed a major league deal with the Braves.
Harang impressed Braves scouts more than Garcia did this spring while posting a 2.00 ERA in four games (two starts) for the Indians. He also pitched in a couple of minor league games, and went six innings Friday in his last start, plus a simulated inning in the bullpen afterward.
"We've seen him really good this spring," Wren said, referring to his scouts' reports on Harang. "His stuff's been good. Our reports on him in September and this spring have been very good. We just felt like that he was a good fit for us."
And so, the Braves said goodbye to one well-traveled veteran and welcomed Harang, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who was 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 26 starts last season for Seattle and the New York Mets. He's was due to arrive in camp Tuesday and could make a start Thursday in a minor league game or the Grapefruit League game against the Tigers in Lakeland, the Braves' last game before they break camp and fly back to Atlanta.
"We've seen him twice in the last two weeks, and he was 90-91 (miles per hour) as a starter and 92-93 as a reliever, and threw the ball very well," Wren said. "His last time out (Friday) he went six innings, 93 pitches and threw seven more pitches in the pen to get to 100, so he's stretched out and ready to go."
The San Diego native has a 110-116 record and 4.28 ERA in 325 career games (319 starts) over 12 seasons with six teams, including parts of 11 seasons in the National League. He spent eight years with the Reds and had consecutive 16-win seasons in 2006-2007, racking up 434 strikeouts in 466 innings.
His velocity and durability have been reduced some over the years, but Harang in 2012 went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 179-2/3 innings for the Dodgers. When the Braves get Minor and Floyd in the rotation, they could move Harang to the bullpen to be a long reliever/spot starter.
"Yeah, he can pitch in a variety of roles," Wren said, "but the thing we feel most comfortable with right now is giving us a veteran presence in that rotation."
Etc. Hale gave up 12 hits, six runs, two walks and two wild pitches, but Gonzalez said the rookie pitched well. Several of the hits were ground balls through the infield and a couple of others were misplayed, including a fly ball that landed in front of Justin Upton in left field for extra bases. Gonzalez cited walking the opposing pitcher as the only negative of Hale's outing.... Upton, Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson hit home runs for the Braves, the third of the spring for Upton and second for Freeman. Johnson hit long, three-run drive over the center-field fence, his first home run of the spring.... Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a double, a sacrifice fly and a walk in the ninth before being replaced with two out. He was making his first back-to-back appearances of the spring, hence the decision to replace him before the inning was through.