Is Rich Harden The Cavalry, Or A Dead Horse?

Hey! Good news for the Athletics, who currently have 60 percent of their ideal pitching rotation on the Disabled List!

Rich Harden is rehabbing, and things have been well lately. Susan Slusser:

Rich Harden threw 40-plus pitches in a rehab game, and depending how you were scoring, he gave up either one or two singles (I'd argue one of those probably would have been a lineout were there fielders behind Harden). Ryan Sweeney had the one clean single, and Adam Rosales walked, but Harden struck out three and got three flyouts in two innings of work.

"He looks terrific to me," manager Bob Melvin said, raving about Harden's explosive fastball.

Typically, we would present "news" like this -- about a formerly outstanding pitcher perhaps joining a major-league rotation sometime soon -- in a StoryStream™ that allows for future updates.

I'm sorry, though ... I'm not at all convinced there will be anything in this story worth updating, because I'm not convinced that Harden will progress past maybe a minor-league rehab start or two.

Don't get me wrong ... I'm definitely pulling for Harden to reach the majors and pitch well. What are the odds, though?

Harden's now 29 years old. He debuted in the majors nearly eight years ago, and since then he's been a great pitcher for essentially three moments.

The first two were in 2005. In Harden's first six starts of the season, he posted a 1.94 ERA. Then he got hurt. He came back in June, posted a 2.54 ERA in a dozen starts, and got hurt again.

Harden spent most of 2006 and '7 on the Disabled List.

In 2008, Harden went 10-2 with a 2.04 ERA in his firsts 23 starts -- 13 with the A's, 10 with the Cubs -- before faltering in September, probably because he was hurt. Harden struck out 11 batters per nine innings that season.

Since then, Harden spent some of 2009, most of 2010 and all of 2011 (so far) on the DL.

Is that strikeout machine still in there somewhere, fighting to get out? Yeah, probably. It was only three years ago. But that ticking time bomb is still somewhere in his body, too. And the bomb really, really hates sharing space with the strikeout machine.

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