In what is becoming a fairly annual affair for Oakland Athletics starter Rich Harden, the young fireballing right hander began his comeback from yet another injury with a rehab start in Sacramento. Harden started the Rivercats game against Giants AAA affiliate, Fresno by striking out six batters over three innings. Harden gave up one walk and no hits in the start. Harden threw 42 pitches in this first start.
Although Harden hasn't been a member of the Oakland A's since 2008, the injury bug has followed him throughout his career. His latest shoulder injury has kept him on the shelf since spring training but he is finally back pitching. The A's have indicated they plan on stretching him into a starting role so Harden is looking at potentially three more starts with Sacramento. The A's may alternate him between Sacramento and Stockton depending on the two teams upcoming homestands.
Strong appearances like this will naturally get fans excited, in spite of the ample proof that he will likely face a setback along the way. Harden has always had dominant stuff, but he's never been able to stay consistently healthy. For now though, given the numerous injuries to the starting rotation and the low cost of signing Harden to a one year deal, the A's can easily roll the dice on him and see if he produces anything this season.
It will be interesting to see how much the A's look to stretch out Harden. Given the A's dominant bullpen, maybe the A's just get Harden stretched to consistently hitting 80-90 pitches. Of course, it seems like it really doesn't matter what role Harden is in, the injuries just seem to keep on coming. A's fans hope and pray he'll somehow remain consistently healthy, but at this point it's beyond even fool me three times.