Shuffle will give Harden a breather
Gorzelanny to be slotted in rotation spot at least once
CHICAGO -- Rich Harden expected to have at least three more starts this season. However, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Thursday the club will skip the right-hander at least one turn, and possibly two, and insert Tom Gorzelanny into Harden's spot.
Harden, a free agent after this season, served up five runs on 71 pitches over three innings in the Cubs' 9-5 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday. He dropped to 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts.
"There's nothing wrong with him," Piniella said Thursday. "We'll just give him a breather."
"As far as I'm concerned, it's just one start, and I'll be pitching on that Saturday [in San Francisco]," Harden said Thursday. "I'm healthy and feeling good and maybe just a little tired, and the work in the last couple starts is catching up with me. It's a good time to get a couple days rest, work on some stuff, and I should be fine."
Harden, 27, has thrown 374 pitches over 17 innings in his past four starts, an average of 22 pitches per inning. He has failed to reach five innings in those starts, getting pulled after high pitch counts. He threw 103 pitches over four innings on Sept. 11 against Cincinnati. On the plus side, Wednesday's game was his 26th start, the most Harden has made in a single season since a career-high 31 in 2004 with Oakland.
"I've got some work to do," Harden said after Wednesday's game. "This is not what I wanted to do here late in the season. The team's been playing pretty well and we need to win games. Next time out will be better."
Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild had talked before Wednesday's game about possibly giving Harden some extra time. Piniella said the Cubs are considering bumping Harden from the start in San Francisco as well. Gorzelanny could get the call for that start.
"We'll skip [Harden] a turn for sure and then we'll see," Piniella said.
Monday will be Gorzelanny's fifth start for the Cubs. Since he was acquired July 30 from the Pirates, the left-hander is 2-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four starts before getting moved to the bullpen Aug. 25. He's made five relief appearances, but being back in the rotation is where Gorzelanny is most comfortable.
"It's an opportunity to pitch," he said. "It's obviously what I want to do is be a starter. Let's hope I can make the best of it and do my best and go from there."
Miller Park hasn't been very kind to Gorzelanny, who had a 1-2 record and 7.97 ERA in four starts there with the Pirates.
"I haven't had many good outings up there," he said. "But it's different now. It's a lot different situation for me now, different year. I'm better for it."
The switch could help the Cubs as far as their offseason plans go. Harden, who is making $7 million this year, has not pitched past the fourth inning five times this season. He's also struggled against the Brewers, lasting two innings on July 4.
Gorzelanny is hoping to convince the Cubs he deserves a spot in the 2010 rotation.
"I'll just try to do whatever I can to show that I can do this, and I want to be here and hopefully be starting," Gorzelanny said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.