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Weekend Buzz: D-Backs' swoon might mean Haren's on the move

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The Weekend Buzz while you were avoiding the summer vampire movies. ...

It's been a tough season for Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. (Getty Images)  
It's been a tough season for Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. (Getty Images)  
1. Hairy, er, Haren situation: With owner Ken Kendrick's promise to blow up the team underway, the Diamondbacks currently have an interim general manager (Jerry DiPoto), an interim field manager (Kirk Gibson) and interim players stocking their clubhouse (all but Justin Upton? Brandon Webb? Ian Kennedy?).

Whether ace Dan Haren is a short-timer in the desert as well depends upon Kendrick's vision, DiPoto's negotiations and these next two weeks.

With the July 31 trade deadline looming and several clubs looking for rotation help, the best of the available lot is Haren, Houston's Roy Oswalt and the Cubs' Ted Lilly. Haren and Oswalt by far are the better pitchers, Lilly has the more affordable contract.

You get what you pay for.

While clubs are phoning the torched Diamondbacks' front office inquiring about Haren, DiPoto says "we're not to the point right now where we're aggressively seeking [a Haren trade]."

Not yet. But these Diamondbacks are so disappointing, and their bullpen so blindingly awful, that if they're not aggressively seeking a Haren trade soon, they're guilty of malpractice.

This isn't to say they must trade Haren.

But if they come away from this without engaging other clubs to at least determine available packages, they're even worse off than they appear.

DiPoto looks around the diamond and sees talented young players at most positions. Yet he's also looking at an equation in which 2 + 2 does not equal 4.

"You can look at it and suggest we're not far from turning the corner, or you could look at it and say what do we need to get over the top?" DiPoto, 42, says. "I think we need a little bit more versatility in terms of the way we can use our lineup, the way we can use our bullpen."

Or a lot more versatility. Of those two choices, the better way to look at this, clearly, is from the not-far-from-turning-the-corner angle. That may be Pollyanna-ish, but it's far more grounded in reality than figuring what an Arizona team 20½ games out of first in the NL West needs to do to "get over the top."

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On a Friday night in San Diego when Haren was not at his best (five innings pitched, eight hits, six earned runs allowed), scouts weren't exactly stuffing Petco Park to view him. Detroit, which also is looking at Oakland's Ben Sheets and others, appeared to be the only club with a scout dispatched solely to bird-dog Haren. The Mets, Phillies and Braves also had scouts in attendance, but one of those was an advance man (Mets) and the other two were doing their regular coverage.

Still, the Phillies and Mets are among those clubs looking to add a starting pitcher in an NL East increasingly controlled by Atlanta.

The Diamondbacks are looking for a position player or two, bullpen help (duh), and pieces to re-stock a spotty farm system.

"Good, young, controllable talent," DiPoto says. "Guys who can go out there [and play in the majors]. And we have a roster model right now built around that young player that we've given an opportunity now for two, three, four years to play at the major-league level and grow into the major-league player, or, role they were going to assume.

"Now we need to keep adding onto the back end of that to create a flow. Our minor-league prospects, we're heavy at the [Class] A level. How do we place something in between?"

Cliff Lee brought Seattle top first base prospect Justin Smoak and three prospects from Texas, and Lee is a free agent in three months. Haren is signed to a four-year, $44.75 million deal that doesn't expire until 2012 -- and includes a club option $15.5 million in 2013.

"It is hard to find top-of-the-rotation, major-league starters," DiPoto says. "You might bite off your nose to spite your face [if you trade a guy like Haren]. And I don't know if that's smart business.

"What we do know is what value Dan brings to this team and what value he should hold in the market. The rest is, everybody's going to have different opinions."

These are the kind of things that will shadow Haren and the Diamondbacks over the next two weeks as the trade deadline rages and Arizona digs out of the sandstorm. Interim skipper Gibson knows it, and he pretty much figures his players had better buck up.

"We've put ourselves in a situation," Gibson says. "We have a lineup card with 25 names on it that I will manage tonight. If we have a lineup card with different names on it tomorrow, we'll honor those who are no longer here and I'll manage who we have here.

"I'm not trying to be cold about it, but that's the way it is."

2. Yankees honor George Steinbrenner, Bob Sheppard: The ceremony before Friday night's game honoring these two lions was somber and touching. Really terrific idea to leave the public address system silent, and not introduce the night's hitters, in what amounted to dozens of mini moments of silence for Sheppard.

As for Steinbrenner, while Jeter and the Yankees caught some flak for not attending Sheppard's funeral, this is partly why that criticism simply isn't valid: Jeter flew from Anaheim home to Tampa following the All-Star Game, and a visit to Steinbrenner while there had been in his plans until The Boss passed. Even a guy like Jeter can only do so much.

3. Where's Buck Showalter? First Lady Michelle Obama will throw out the first pitch in Baltimore before Tuesday's game with Tampa Bay in conjunction with a joint initiative between Major League Baseball, the players' association and the White House to help combat childhood obesity. That, or the Orioles are going to name her manager. Hang on, I'm trying to read my notes. ...

4. Braves acquire shortstop Alex Gonzalez: How much did Bobby Cox's club dislike Yunel Escobar? True story: Players in the Braves' clubhouse rose when Gonzalez arrived on Thursday and gave him an impromptu standing ovation. Of course, given Escobar's grand slam in Toronto's 10-1 rout of Baltimore on Sunday, the Blue Jays are only too happy to take him -- so far.

5. Lowest-ever All-Star Game television ratings: What? You mean, they've already played the game? I thought FOX's interminable pregame show was still going.

6. Bengie Molina triples to hit for the cycle: What are the odds that, on consecutive days, BP plugs the leak in the Gulf and then Texas' Molina hits for the cycle with just his sixth career triple? Heck, forget that. What are the odds Molina would hit a triple, period? "Things just happen," a perplexed David Ortiz told reporters in Boston after the game. "I'd put my head in a tree trimmer betting that he won't hit a triple."

7. Mets get Carlos Beltran back: And immediately lose three of four in San Francisco. Bright side: They could have gotten Oliver Perez back.

8. Baseball's biggest surprise keeps on trucking: The Padres open the second half with a three-game sweep of Arizona and gain 3½ games on the Dodgers in four days. Things are going so well that baseball's best story is authoring some of baseball's best stories, literally. In putting Mat Latos on the disabled list in a maneuver designed to temporarily ease his workload and add bullpen help, they said he has a sore side suffered while attempting to "stifle a sneeze." Now, temporarily storing a player on the DL is a common practice in the game. But reporting, with a straight face, that this is how it happened? I've never known a ballplayer to stifle anything.

9. James Gammon, rest in peace: The well-known character actor passed away at 70 this weekend, and we're mentioning him here because you certainly know him as Lou Brown, the exasperated Indians coach in the film Major League: "You may run like Mays, but you hit like ----."

10. TBS to air Seinfeld Steinbrenner reruns this week: There are 10 different classic episodes that featured Larry David, co-creator of the show, as the voice of Steinbrenner and TBS is running them all week (at 7 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., local time, in most markets). Hey Costanza, go get me a calzone so I'll have something to eat while watching!

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