Rich Harden hasn’t played in a big-league game this season, but the Athletics’ right-hander is getting close to retuning to the team. The A’s have been hit with injuries this season, but the A’s are hoping Harden’s return will help a very thin starting rotation.
Oakland’s pitching has been hit with injuries to starters Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, and Brandon McCarthy, but the team still holds the AL’s best ERA (3.17). The starters have tallied 48 quality starts this season as well.
So, it’s safe to say once guys like Harden, Anderson, Ross, and McCarthy return, the A’s pitching will only get better.
Right now, it’s Harden who’s approaching a return to Oakland. Signed during the offseason on a one-year $1.5 million deal, the A’s right-hander returned to Oakland after being traded out of the bay area in 2008.
Harden has a long history with injuries, but the A’s are remaining optimistic about the his progress so far. He’s made two starts for Triple-A Sacramento. In his last start, Harden allowed three runs, two walks, and struck out six in 4.2 innings.
Harden has been sidelined since spring training with a nagging shoulder issue, but the electric starter is getting closer to returning. The A’s expect Harden to make his third, and possibly final, rehab start on Thursday for Sacramento.
It’s anyone’s guess on how much Harden can and will contribute to the A’s starting rotation. Given how he performed last season while with the Rangers (5-5, 5.58 ERA), there are plenty of people out there casting doubt on Harden’s value.
Last season he saw a decline in his K/9 rate, as it dropped from 10.92 in 2009 to 7.34 last year. His fastball was clocking in a little slower than usual, and his command was definitely lost, as he walked a total of 62 batters in just 92 innings.
The A’s are probably just hoping that Harden can find a way to stay healthy. If he’s healthy, Harden has the “stuff” needed to be a top of the rotation type guy. If his command issues are resolved, he should be able to contribute this season for the A’s.