Those were the primary topics at hand as Haren, still sporting the bushy beard and long hair with which he reported for camp on Feb. 16, spoke to a small group of reporters Saturday after making his 2007 Cactus League debut with two solid innings against the visiting Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
First he discussed his quick 21-pitch outing, on which a first-inning solo homer by Ronny Cedeno and a leadoff double by Michael Barrett in the second were the only blemishes. Haren, who threw 15 more pitches in the bullpen after he left the game, was particularly pleased to see some fruit of the considerable labor he's been putting in to refine his cutter.
He threw it often, and said it was his most effective pitch.
Haren had little faith in his cutter last season, frequently ditching it altogether early in games if the first couple he'd throw weren't to his liking. So one of his goals coming into Spring Training was to bolster his confidence in it through repetition, and he appears to be ahead of schedule in that regard.
"He threw it a lot," catcher Jason Kendall said of the cutter. "And confidence in it is big for Danny, so that's a good sign."
As is often the case with starting pitchers after short early-spring outings, the dissection of his work quickly gave way to more general issues, and the focus of the chat became his beard.
When he arrived at camp looking a bit like the indignant caveman in Geico's TV spots, Haren said he planned to shave the beard before the start of the exhibition season. But now that his wife, Jessica, has changed her tune about it, he's sticking with it.
"She didn't like it at first, but she's kind of growing into it," Haren said. "She kind of digs it now."
So do some of Haren's teammates. Kendall has offered him a significant amount of money -- Haren wouldn't say how much -- if he doesn't shave for the rest of the season, but Haren isn't sure if he'll be able to last that long.
"I don't want it to turn into ZZ Top by September," he cracked.
The potential heckling it might bring is a factor, too.
"I don't know how I'd feel giving up six runs in three innings and walking off the mound with a foot-long beard," Haren said.
Game notes: A day after drawing fewer than 3,500 fans for their Cactus League home opener, the A's played the Cubs to a 5-5 draw in 10 innings in front of a standing-room-only crowd announced at 10,074. ... Designated hitter Mike Piazza went 2-for-2, and he would have gotten more at-bats had he not done so much work on the bases. He scored from first on a double in the second inning, then doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Manager Bob Geren said he gave Piazza the option of staying in the game, but Piazza said, "I'm good." ... Outfielder Milton Bradley, who doubled and scored on Piazza's double in the fourth, is 4-for-5 in two games. "He said, 'Let's start the season right now; I'm feeling good,'" Geren said. Added Haren, "Milton looks really strong, and he's swinging the bat well." ... Non-roster outfielder Charles Thomas, whose work ethic and enthusiasm has drawn praise from the coaching staff, singled and walked in his only two plate appearances. ... Non-roster righty Mike Mitchell threw two hitless innings, prompting Geren to make note of Mitchell's live arm and hard-sinking fastball.
Up next: The A's will start righty Esteban Loaiza on Sunday in their 12:05 p.m. (PT) game at the Peoria Sports Complex, where they'll face righty Greg Maddux in his Padres debut.
Dribblers: Shortstop Bobby Crosby (back) was back in the batting cage Saturday morning. ... Geren said there was nothing new to report on the injury front. Mark Kotsay (back) still is scheduled to see another doctor Monday. ... Donald Fehr, the head of the players' association, was at Phoenix Muni for his annual "state of the union" meeting with the team. ... Also at the park was Commissioner Bud Selig, who held court at the back of the press box early in the game.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.