Yes, you read it right. A’s right-hander Rich Harden is looking rather healthy since coming off the disabled-list last month. Harden, 29, signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million prior to this season, but was sidelined for most of the season until making his first appearance of the year on July 1st against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He went six innings in that start, allowing two earned runs while striking out six for his first victory of the 2011 season. Since then, Harden has shown flashes of the promise that once surrounded him during his early days with Oakland. In seven starts for the Athletics this season, Harden is 3-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 42.0 innings of work. In his last five starts, Harden is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA. He’s also managed to record 37 strikeouts during that five start span (31 innings).
The Athletics almost traded Harden to the Boston Red Sox last month, but the Red Sox were not convinced that Harden’s body would hold up for the remainder of the season, and eventually the deal fell through.
Oakland’s rotation has faltered somewhat in the second-half this season, and the team overall is finding it difficult to strike a balance between it’s pitching staff and it’s offense. Harden has proved to be a solid option for the A’s since coming off the disabled-list, and really hasn’t been too disappointing, considering his lengthy injury history.
This season, Harden’s K/9 rate has improved versus last season’s mark (9.64 K/9 in ’11 vs. 7.34 K/9 in ’10). And opponents aren’t torching him as they were last season, as Harden has kept opposing offenses to a .219 batting average this season. He’s also throwing a lot more pitches this season, as he’s averaged 102 pitches per game this season, with 114 pitches being his highest total of the season.
It’s been a month, and Harden’s body has held up. Harden’s abilities and skills have never been doubted, but his health has always been an issue. The A’s, in my mind, are lucky in the sense that they’ve been able to squeeze out more than five starts out of Harden this year. Hopefully, he’ll continue to stay healthy for the remainder of the season and continue to put up decent numbers for Oakland’s hurting starting rotation.