The Oakland Athletics open their three game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks and will send out former phenom Rich Harden. This will mark his first start in an Oakland uniform since 2008 prior to being traded to the Chicago Cubs. Although Harden has bounced around since then, the one unifying theme has been injury. He has been on the DL for 758 days during his career, or the equivalent of approximately 111 starts. The closest Harden has come to a completely healthy season was in 2004 when he made 31 starts for the A’s and even then he missed the first two weeks of the season.
Now, Harden is back in the rotation representing a healthy body as injured pitchers drop like flies. While his strong first rehab start had some folks excited, most A’s fans at this point recognize Harden for what he is, or maybe what he was. An immensely talented pitcher who can’t stay healthy and struggles with his command because he’s trying to strike everybody out. Even when healthy Harden has dealt with pitch count issues that have limited his effectiveness to short outings.
As he prepares to make his first start for the A’s in nearly three years, anything he can provide is basically house-money at this point. He’ll face a tough challenge in his first start against a solid Arizona Diamondbacks offense. Arizona is eighth in the league in scoring with 371 runs. Thus far the Diamondbacks have put together a line of .318/.419/.737 and are tied for fourth in the majors with 91 home runs.
Harden is expected to have a pitch count of around 90 Friday night. During his two-game minor league rehab stint he threw 42 pitches in his first start and 72 pitches in his second start. Given Harden’s previous injury issues the A’s will likely take it easy in working him back into the rotation.