10/09/06 8:47 PM ET
Notes: Harden throws 'free and easy'
Right-hander on track to start Game 3 or 4 of ALCS for A's
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
"I thought Rich threw the ball well," Young said by phone from the Phoenix airport Monday evening. "His first three innings, he was very good. Good velocity, low 90s [mph], got it up to 94 a couple times. It was mostly fastball-changeup, but he threw a few splits and a couple sliders, and he felt good about the way he felt.
"I thought he got a little tired in the fourth, and he gave up a few hits and three or four runs in that one inning, but there were a couple of misplays in the field -- a ball was dropped in the outfield, things like that. Overall, though, he was fine. He's ready to go."
Exactly when he'll go hasn't been decided. Harden will make his American League Championship Series debut in Game 3 or Game 4 at Detroit's Comerica Park.
"That's not for sure," Oakland assistant general manager David Forst said during Oakland's workout at McAfee Coliseum. "We'll get everyone together tomorrow to discuss that."
Forst noted that if Harden, who missed the bulk of the season with back and elbow injuries, were to get the nod for Game 3, he'd be available to face the Tigers in Game 7 if it's needed. Not so if he works Game 4, because the club won't bring him back on three days of rest given his limited workload -- 11 2/3 innings in three starts -- since coming off the disabled list in September.
Righty Dan Haren, however, would be available to work Game 7 if he started Game 4, and Forst said that will be among the considerations factoring into the decision.
"Dan's been strong all year," Forst said. "[Starting him in Game 4] probably leaves your options open more."
At A's manager Ken Macha's press conference Monday, the first question he fielded was about Harden's outing. Harden was apparently still on the mound as Macha spoke.
"Well, I just spoke to Curt, and [Harden] had completed one inning," said the skipper. "He said he's throwing in the low 90s and he felt he was throwing free and easy, so [Young] felt real good about the way he was throwing."
Billy Owens, Oakland's director of player personnel, also was in Phoenix to evaluate Harden, and he reported back to Forst.
"I guess he gave up some runs in the fourth inning ... but 'Billy O' said he looked good," Forst said. "The preliminary reports are all good."
Kiger it is: As expected, the A's announced that infielder Mark Kiger has been added to the ALCS roster, replacing second baseman Mark Ellis, who fractured a finger on his right hand in Game 2 of the AL Division Series sweep over the Twins.
"It was pretty unanimous throughout the organization," Forst said.
Kiger, who started the season at Triple-A Sacramento and was transferred to Double-A Midland after 61 games, likely won't see any action in the series. He's essentially insurance against injuries to shortstop Marco Scutaro and second basemen D'Angelo Jimenez, who are backups themselves.
Scutaro has been starting since Bobby Crosby was placed on the DL in August, and Jimenez is filling in for Ellis only because Oakland's other middle-infield option during the regular season, Antonio Perez, suffered a fractured finger of his own in the last week.
Kiger, a fifth-round draft pick in 2002, worked out with the A's in Oakland on Sunday and was sent back to Arizona to play in the game that Harden pitched. Also playing in that game was Kiger's competition for the ALCS roster spot, Keith Ginter.
Ginter had 325 games of big-league experience and decent power, having batted .268 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games at Sacramento this season, while Kiger batted .233 with three home runs at Sacramento and hasn't even been on the club's 40-man roster since he was drafted. But the A's were clearly more concerned with defensive prowess than they were with pop at the plate -- advantage, Kiger.
"He's the best defensive option we have," Forst said. "He's the right guy."
Kiger will rejoin the A's on Tuesday, and he'll probably be with the A's all the way through the World Series if they get that far. He won't, however, get paid or accrue any big-league service time.
"He will get meal money," Forst said with a smile.
Pesky Polanco: A's general manager Billy Beane has long coveted Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco, having tried hard to acquire him before the trading deadline in previous years, and Macha suggested there's a very good reason for that.
"I just looked at all the matchups, and he hits a million off us," Macha said. "Somebody [in a scouting meeting] said, 'Throw it behind him and see if he can hit that.' I'm just kidding, but really, the only pitcher we've got who gets him out is [righty reliever Kirk] Saarloos. Everybody else, he kind of wears out."
That includes Barry Zito. Polanco is 7-for-11 (.636) with a walk in his career against Oakland's Game 1 starter.
"I think he's a catalyst for them," Zito said at his press conference. "He's a guy similar to a lot of leadoff hitters for teams. He's a two-hole hitter, but he's a guy that just finds a way to put the sweet spot on the ball, and when he does that, he'll hit doubles in the gap, little flares. He finds a way to get on base. He's definitely a threat. I think if he's on base most times, their team is in a position to win."
Polanco, who batted .295 with five homers and 52 RBIs this season, is 2-for-13 (.143) lifetime against Saarloos, who did not appear in the ALDS, but he's 7-for-10 against A's righty Joe Blanton; 5-for-12 against Haren; 3-for-6 against lefty Joe Kennedy; 3-for-10 against Game 2 starter Esteban Loaiza; and 4-for-4 with two doubles against Harden.
"The law of averages," Macha said, "are going to even up in this series."
Dribblers: Backup catcher Adam Melhuse, who would be Oakland's first option at third base if Eric Chavez had to slide over to shortstop in an emergency, used a Chavez-model glove while taking ground balls during the workout. "All glove, no man," Melhuse joked. "I'm not going out there with my glove." ...
Designated hitter Frank Thomas also made an appearance at the interview room podium and said his year in Oakland has helped rekindle his love for the game. "First, it's been health. Second, it's been being around this bunch of guys," he explained. "I've never seen anything like this all year long, but they've been so consistent with it. These guys are nuts, a lot of fun. There's a looseness in the clubhouse that I've never felt before, and it's been great for me." ... Thomas also said that he and Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, a former White Sox teammate who, like Thomas, had a less than clean break from Chicago, text-message each other often. "Magglio and I pretty much went down the same road with the White Sox. We went to different teams, and we've done a great job for our new teams. It's kind of funny that we're facing off in the ALCS."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.