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Despite pitching better, Charlie Haeger may have run out of time with Dodgers

June 25, 2010 |  7:41 am
And now to ponder the unthinkable: Do the Dodgers now keep Charlie Haeger?

They’ve stuck by him through his horrendous start, but now that he pitches decently -- we’re talking comparatively here -- are they going to let him go?

Logically, it would seem time to designate him for assignment. Chad Billingsley is scheduled to be activated Monday, so room will have to be made.

If it’s going to be Haeger, it would be better to do it prior to Friday’s game and bring up a Jon Link or someone who might be useful this weekend against the Yankees, rather than wait until Monday.

Manager Joe Torre said he was uncertain what would happen next with Haeger.

"I don’t know," Torre said. "We have to see what our needs are. We have Billingsley coming back on Monday, so we’re just taking this a day at a time right now."

With his 0-4 record and 8.53 ERA, the Dodgers basically started Haeger on Thursday night out of desperation. With Carlos Monasterios and Billingsley on the disabled list and the system devoid of quality starters, Torre went back to his failed experiment.

Although Haeger’s final numbers looked familiar -- four runs on five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings -- this was actually his best start since his first one on April 11.

If Ramon Troncoso could actually do his job -- he allowed both base runners to score when he relieved Haeger -- then the knuckleballer exits having allowed only two runs.

"I feel like I battled out there tonight," Haeger said. "I felt like I gave it everything I could out there tonight. I felt into a game, for the first time in a while. I felt good."

Haeger actually had good success with his slider, relying less on just his knuckleball and fastball.

Haeger is out of options, and if the Dodgers designate him for assignment, he could be claimed by another club. That doesn’t seem like much of a danger, given his current 8.40 ERA.

Still, it’s possible he pitched just well enough Thursday to intrigue some pitching-desperate club. I mean, even more desperate than the Dodgers.

If he goes unclaimed, he could accept a minor-league assignment with the Dodgers, which, given their lack of starting depth, they would almost certainly offer.

Haeger is as uncertain about what will happen as anyone.

"I have no idea," he said. "It’s not my job to make those decisions. I’ll come to the ballpark and get ready like I’m going to start in five days. That’s the only thing I can do."

The only way he stays in the rotation is if the Dodgers decide to send John Ely, who has options left, back down. Given that Ely has had some terrific outings and, after a rough stretch, pitched well in his last start, that seems highly unlikely.

They could keep Haeger as long man, but he’s been so unreliable, that’s a gamble. And it would likely mean sending down Justin Miller, who’s been reasonably effective.

Or Haeger could come down with another bout of plantar fasciitis, although at some point Major League Baseball has to say enough.

Haeger stuck with the Dodgers longer than he had a right to, but finally the stars are not aligning for the right-hander. After 12 weeks of trying to make it work, he may have run out of time.

-- Steve Dilbeck
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