07/13/2003 10:08 PM ET
Harden's next start could be for A's
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Minor Leagues and Prospects at MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Oakland Athletics right-handed pitching prospect Rich Harden aced his minor league assignment -- to improve his fastball command.
The A's gave him that "A," when owner Steve Schott told the San Francisco Chronicle it's a "sure bet" Harden would be brought up from Triple-A Sacramento. Talk is heavy his next start will be in an Oakland uniform after the break.
Harden's less-than-pinpoint performance in Sunday afternoon's RadioShack All-Star Futures Game, during which he gave up a run in the first inning and threw just 14 of his 21 pitches for strikes, isn't cause for much concern. Harden's World team, for which the Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, native started, lost the game, 3-2.
Besides, Sunday was an honor, not a final exam.
"It was a little different, and I didn't have the best command today," Harden said. "I was a little excited. Mechanically, I wasn't too sound."
But Harden, 21, has hummed along since the start of the season, when he threw 13 perfect innings -- retiring the only 39 batters he faced for Double-A Midland before being promoted to Sacramento.
At Triple-A, Harden is 9-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 88 2/3 innings over 14 starts. As for the command, he has 91 strikeouts to 35 walks.
Some scouting reports say Harden has a better arm than the "big three" -- Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
"I'm just happy to be mentioned with those guys -- they're three big names," said Harden, who added that participating in Major League camp this Spring Training did away with any awe he might have had.
Now, talk is he could start a week from Monday at Kansas City, but the A's have not made that announcement. But Schott said the A's are not concerned about starting Harden's arbitration clock early and thus be faced with big-money financial decisions with him sooner, so there's nothing in the way of adding him to the roster.
Such reports have Harden working on a different kind of command.
"I've heard that a few times since the beginning of the year," Harden said. "Stuff like that, I can't worry about. Who knows what's going to happen?"
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.