Rich Harden

A little under the weather and mourning the end of the Bears season, so some brief notes to hold you over for the weekend.

-  To add fuel to my "they better offer Rich Harden arbitration" fire, the Seattle Times suggest the Mariners have some interest in Rich Harden as I imagine a few teams will.

- Our pal Alex Eisenberg at Baseball Intellect has a new premium article scouting left-handed pitcher James Paxton (drafted by the Blue Jays in the supplemental round in the 2009 draft). The video in the game is against LSU and there's three at-bats of D.J. LeMaheiu which he does a little breakdown of. 

- Congrats to Carlos Zambrano on his third Silver Slugger award. I know Z gets a lot of heat for his Babe Ruth like swings and not worrying enough about his pitching, but I suggest if you have a problem with that you should go follow an AL team. Players like Carlos Zambrano is what makes the National League more fun.

- On the Curtis Granderson rumor front, MLBTR has a link up saying the Angels and Tigers have been talking...Granderson would presumably patrol left field.

- And now the greatest 4:30 minutes you'll watch this weekend, hat tip to Big League Stew for the find.

Enjoy the weekend!

Reader Osiris flagged this bad news by way of Paul Sullivan in the Tribune:

The Cubs placed Rich Harden on the 15-day disabled list with a back strain on Friday, and inserted Randy Wells into the rotation for Saturday's game.

This will allow the Cubs to activate Carlos Zambrano without having to make another roster move, i.e., demote Wells. Harden felt "a twinge" when he pitched last Sunday against the Astros.

You may vomit as you see fit.

On the 39th anniversary of Ernie Banks' 500th home run, Milton Bradley hit a titanic, two-run blast in the sixth inning to lead the Cubs and RIch Harden past Jake Peavy and the Padres.

In the first inning, Harden gave up a leadoff double to Brian Giles and one out later, a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez. He limited the Pads to just two more hits and held them scoreless over the remainder of his six innings, at one point retiring 13 San Diego hitters consecutively.

Rich Harden threw four shutout innings and Welington Castillo's two run home run capped a five-run 5th, as the Iowa Cubs (Cubs AAA affiliate) edged the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) 5-4 before an unusually large Minor League Camp crowd of 50+ at cool & breezy Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode were in attendance, and the place was absoluely crawling with beat writers, bloggers, and assorted Cubs fans intent on watching an actual Cubs major league pitcher throw on a day when the big club had the day off, and they were not disappointed.

However, very few stayed for the whole game. 

So for those of you who want to know how Harden looked, but also just HAVE to know how the Iowa Cubs did it,.. here is... the... rest...of... the... story...

Gordon Wittenmyer in his Sunday Sun-Times article extolled the virtues of Cubs trainer, Mark O'Neal. It's a really nice piece explaining how valuable an athletic trainer can be to the ballclub. Beyond the obvious treating of injured athletes, the job involves organizing effective treatment protocols, reviewing medical histories and records and something as simple as honest communication of his medical opinions to both the athlete and management after assessing all this medical input. It took some time but he's created a sense of trust of his judgement from athletes and management.

The line between keeping the manager and GM fully informed and not betraying a player's confidence is not a tough one to walk, O'Neal said, as long as it comes with honesty, straight talk and the confidence he and his staff know what they're doing.

Rich Harden was all the news yesterday even though there was nothing new going on. Harden was newsworthy because he's starting the spring camp with long toss rather than work off the mound like the other pitchers. He's been on an off-season strengthening program for an achy-breaky shoulder that everyone in Cubs camp is still struggling to label. It's kind of like having a family member with a psychiatric diagnosis in the 1950's. Nobody wants to label the poor fella because of the stigma and gossip. Sun-Times beat reporter Gordon Wittenmyer, in his blog, was irked that once again there was misinformation delivered this off-season regarding what the diagnosis of Harden's shoulder issues are.

Can anybody tell me what the advantage is in omitting those details and being vague about these things? It's not like the Cubs have to protect the information for the purposes of shopping Harden or for any on-the-field competitive reasons (scouts have eyes).

I've covered three other teams in my career, and the ones that were most up front about these kinds of things had the fewest headaches with the way the information got out. And the fans stayed well informed, without the yo-yo effect.

''His arm action's good; he's throwing free and easy...He's not close to throwing off a mound yet. There's some issues
there, no question.''

No, not a reprint of a 2005 article or 2004 article or 2006 article, but rather Larry Rotschild talking about Rich Harden at the Cubs Convention on Saturday. Don't worry though, the Cubs have the spin ready.

 Cubs insiders say Harden is right on schedule toward a strong, on-time
and well-conditioned start to spring training and the season
.

Of course they believe that...but what about this?

There is this article in today's Sun-Times about Rich Harden's winter rehab. He's working on a  6 day a week strengthening program that could be the most rigorous of any Cub this offseason. It's designed to "ease" him up to pitching conditions "by the end" of spring training. Fine. I remember this somewhere in the not too distant Cub past (including the Larry Rothschild quotes). Flushed with a strong sense of Déjà vu, I finally saw some new information in the article:

But sources also confirmed Saturday that Harden has a tear in the joint, just severe enough that some players might seek surgery but slight enough to be in a range often treated effectively with a strengthening program, therapy and a well- managed work schedule.


Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times doesn't give enough info to make me absolutely certain but the implication is Harden is putting up with a "Kerry Wood type" rotator cuff tear. I do recall that Harden underwent an MRI/Arthrogram after the season to better assess his shoulder issues and before the team decided to pick up his $7 Million option. The press was told this on October 8th:

General manager Jim Hendry said an MRI-arthrogram on Harden's shoulder revealed no tears of the labrum or rotator cuff, referring to Harden's problems as "subtle instability in the shoulder."

At the Cubs Convention yesterday GW's article says "sources" confirmed Harden has "a tear in the joint." This implies the rotator cuff tissue has an area that is showing structural damage on the MRI/Arthrogram, but not involving the full thickness of the cuff tendon and thus without any detachment from it's insertion on bone (greater tuberosity). Any surgical repair has to take down some degenerative tissue that is worn but not detached. The results of surgery on that type of situation would be iffy for a high end starting pitcher, especially if they were counting on him for 2009. Hence he's on a non-surgical treatment protocol analagous to what Kerry Wood went through after his MRI/Arthrogram in July 2006.

 

Rich Harden vs.
Hiroki Kuroda
  *5-1, 1.77, 89 K, 30 BB, 71 IP 2008   9-10, 3.73, 116 K, 42 BB, 183.1 IP
  1-2, 6.43, 5 K, 7 BB, 7 IP Post   (None)
  *NL stats only      
         
LF Alfonso Soriano   SS #Rafael Furcal
2B *Mike Fontenot   C Russell Martin
1B Derrek Lee   LF Manny Ramirez
3B Aramis Ramirez   RF Andre Ethier
C Geovany Soto   1B *James Loney
CF *Jim Edmonds   CF Matt Kemp
RF Mark DeRosa   2B *Blake DeWitt
SS Ryan Theriot   3B Casey Blake
P *Rich Harden   P Hiroki Kuroda

 

Our very own Rob G. will be in the stands at tonight's game. Be sure to look for him on the broadcast.

Thoughts on Hiroki Kuroda from "Blue Notes," the L.A. Times blog about the Dodgers:

...when the Japanese import is on, dude typically gets into a serious,
sometimes unhittable groove. But he's often the Bizarro-version of
that pitcher after the first bit of trouble, more often than not
tossing himself further into trouble than figuring a way out of it.

In two starts against the Cubs this year, Kuroda has pitched 15 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run. In other words, we really haven't come across that "first bit of trouble" part.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Rich Harden SP Todd Wellemeyer
(NL) 4-1, 1.50, 75 K, 18 BB, 54 IP
12-6, 3.74, 116 K, 51 BB, 168.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS *Skip Schumaker
SS Ryan Theriot LF #Aaron Miles
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa 3B #Felipe Lopez
2B *Mike Fontenot 2B *Adam Kennedy
C Geovany Soto C Jason LaRue
CF Reed Johnson P Todd Wellemeyer
P *Rich Harden SS #Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs last game for at least two days as they'll head home after the game and wait out Hurricane Ike. Rich Harden returns after skipping a start, now ready to throw 110 mph and strike out the 27 batters on 81 pitches...anything less would be disappointing.

Brewers and Phillies start a four game set, so there's a good chance one of the Cubs magic numbers will go down today although the playoff magic number is now muddled by the Cardinals and Astros who are tied with the Phillies in the lost column. The best thing is to just win tonight - let's say 15-0 - and then let the other teams duke it out while the Cubs watch the carnage over the weekend.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Joe Blanton SP Rich Harden
(NL) 1-0, 4.03, 27 K, 15 BB, 38 IP (NL) 4-1, 1.47, 70 K, 14 BB, 49 IP
       
SS #Jimmy Rollins LF Alfonso Soriano
CF #Shane Victorino SS Ryan Theriot
2B *Chase Utley 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Ryan Howard 3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Pat Burrell CF *Jim Edmonds
RF Jayson Werth 2B Mark DeRosa
3B *Greg Dobbs RF *Kosuke Fukudome
C Carlos Ruiz C Henry Blanco
P Joe Blanton P *Rich Harden

 

A few aftershocks from last night's game...the come from behind win was the 38th for the Cubs this season, second to the Yankees 39. It was their 19th win when trailing in the seventh inning or later, best in baseball ahead of their current foe - the Phightin Phils.

Today, ex-teammates do battle as Rich Harden and Joe Blanton take the mound. I'm sure a steak dinner at Morton's is on the table for the winner.

 

Some more game notes fun after the jump...

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Jason Bergmann SP Rich Harden
  2-9, 4.50, 83 K, 33 BB, 116 IP (NL)
3-1, 1.50, 59 K, 14 BB, 42 IP
       
LF *Willie Harris LF Alfonso Soriano
SS #Christian Guzman SS Ryan Theriot
3B Ryan Zimmerman 3B Aramis Ramirez
CF Lastings Milledge 1B *Daryle Ward
1B Ronnie Belliard RF Mark DeRosa
C Jesus Flores CF *Jim Edmonds
RF Austin Kearns C Geovany Soto
2B #Anderson Hernandez 2B *Mike Fontenot
P Jason Bergmann P *Rich Harden

The Cubs go for yet another series win with Rich Harden making his eight start as a Cub. The win would give them their seventh straight series win and secure a tie  in the season series against the Nationals. Good thing it's Sunday where the Cubs are 15-5 this season, their best record for any day of the week.

Rich Harden's brilliant effort Tuesday night followed yet another complete-game win for the second-place Brewers' C.C. Sabathia the evening before.

Through last night's play, here is what Harden and Sabathia have done for their NL Central teams, alongside the contribution of another mid-season acquisition, who, once upon a time, made a huge impact when he joined the Cubs from the American League:

  GS CG IP
H
K
 BB ERA
 W L
C.C. Sabathia 9 5 73 60 69 15 1.60 8 0
Rich Harden 7 0 42 26 59 14 1.50 3 1
Rick Sutcliffe (thru 8/19/84) 13 1 94 87 93 32 3.26 11 1

 

(Note: Sabathia's first start for the Brewers was on July 8, Harden's Cub debut was on July 12, and Sutcliffe's first game for the Cubs was on June 19, 1984.

Thoughts after the jump...

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Johnny Cueto SP Rich Harden
8-11, 4.90, 136 K, 53 BB, 145 IP (NL) 2-1, 1.80, 49 K, 14 BB, 35 IP
LF *Chris Dickerson LF Alfonso Soriano
SS Jeff Keppinger SS Ryan Theriot
RF *Jay Bruce 1B Derrek Lee
2B Brandon Phillips 3B Aramis Ramirez
1B *Joey Votto CF *Jim Edmonds
3B Edwin Encarnacion C Geovany Soto
CF *Corey Patterson RF *Kosuke Fukudome
C *Paul Bako 2B Mark DeRosa 
P Johnny Cueto P *Rich Harden

 That sure seemed like the longest one day break from baseball for some reason. Back to the Friendly Confines, where the Cubs have already surpassed their 44-win total from last year with a 45-17 record. The Reds limp into town, depleted and desperate enough to start Corey Patterson. And in honor of Dusty's return, let's discuss the Cubs leading the majors in walks with 501 and on pace for 655 which would break the club mark of 650 set in 1970. Of course, those walks don't mean much if you're not driving them in. The Cubs compliment those walks with an NL leading .284 batting average and .834 OPS with runners in scoring position. That's base-clogging done right.

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