Oakland A's Rehab Q&A: Rich Harden

SACRAMENTO -- Oakland A's right-hander Rich Harden took his first step towards returning to the mound for Oakland with a rehab start for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on Thursday. Harden was very effective in his outing, allowing only one run on three hits and striking out four in 3.2 innings. Harden threw 38 strikes out of 50 pitches thrown. He spoke to the media after his appearance...

Rich Harden moved closer to returning to active duty with the Oakland A's on Thursday. He made his first of what is expected to be two rehab starts, taking the hill for Triple-A Sacramento. Harden was effective, throwing strikes with his first 15 pitches and allowing only three hits and a run in 3.2 innings pitched. The A's had Harden on a very strict pitch count, so he was removed mid at-bat in the fourth inning when he reached 50 pitches. Sacramento wound-up winning the game over Omaha by a score of 5-3.

Harden spoke to the media about his outing...

Media: Was (being removed from the game with a 2-2 count on a batter) a thing where you reached your pitch count?

Rich Harden: Yeah. It was a little strange to get taken out in the middle of an at-bat but it (pitch count) was 50 pitches and they are very strict on that.

M: After not pitching for a couple weeks, how do you just come out with such good control? Fifty pitches, 38 strikes, how do you get back to that same excellent command?

RH: It's something I wanted to work on out here. In my last simulated game, I was a little wild and didn't have much control, so I wanted to come out today and just work on hitting my spots and I felt pretty good with that. They (Omaha) were pretty aggressive, too, and I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes and work on a few things. I felt good overall with the way it went.

M: Your velocity was good. You were hitting, I think, 94 or 95 a couple times. With the last pitch you threw, I think was 92. Do you feel good about that and just being able to consistently hit that number?

RH: Yeah I feel fine with that velocity. You don't want to worry about that too much but it's always harder to throw with more velocity down here, as it's not the same as being in a big league game with the adrenaline and you are always getting a little more up there. It was more just about how I felt and the command I had and that's kind of what I wanted to take out of this.

M: Based on your performance tonight what do you think is next for you?

RH: I don't know. I'll go back to Oakland and we'll talk it over. I feel pretty good. We'll see what they want to do and come to a conclusion. I don't know.

M: After finding out you were hurt, did you try to pitch through it and see if you could?

RH: Yeah and we talked about it and I was thinking about. Actually, I was just going to pitch and they kind of wanted to shut me down, so we came to that conclusion.

M: Not that anybody wants to go on the DL but given your history with it, did you just really not want to go back on the DL again?

RH: No, there was no way in my mind I was going to. I was going to pitch no matter what, so it's kind of what I was going to do. We talked about it and decided to go on the DL. Really, I haven't missed much time and hopefully I can step right back into the rotation and be fine the rest of the season.

M: How do you deal with being on the DL so much? Can you pinpoint a reason why maybe? You have had some different problems with the shoulder and things like that.

RH: A lot of times it has just been some bad luck. I've tried to bare-hand a few balls and pulled some muscles. It's something you have got to just put behind you. You can't worry about it.

M: Were you ever able to let loose tonight fully or are you still trying to do it in increments?

RH: Just a little bit here and there, kind of how I normally pitch.

M: You're a guy that keeps yourself in really good shape. How would you deem yourself as far as your pitching shape and to move forward and hopefully getting a lot of starts at the major league level like in 2004?

RH: That's something that I want to work towards and, unfortunately, I haven't been able to do that in awhile. You just got to put that behind you and I think hopefully now I'll be good. You see that happen with a lot of guys where they have injuries in their careers and they get over that and go on to be healthy for a long time. I'll just go out and pitch and whatever happens, happens.

M: And you're one of those guys, I take it.

RH: Hope so yeah.

M: Are they letting you control you what happens at each stage what happens next? Is it that if you get through this stage, you will go to the next stage or is it 'hey I feel fine, let's move things forward a little bit faster'?

RH: That's something we talk about and we'll come to a conclusion based on a bunch of different things. One is how I'm feeling and what I say, but I think they also have a plan, too, and a lot of times there's a little bit of room for change in our plan, but generally everything is kind of set out already by them.

M: Ever lay back and go 'man, can I get one year with just no injuries whatsoever' and see what it's going to be like?

RH: Yeah. It's hard not to think that. I try to just put that stuff behind me and I think now I'm better dealing with it. I've got to just focus on the process of getting back and getting healthy and go from there.

M: You said you're going back to Oakland and you guys are going to talk about your next step. You personally, do you feel you're ready to go back up or do you need another rehab start or two? What are your thoughts yourself right now?

RH: (Big Smile) Yeah, I feel good and that's something I'll discuss with them and you'll find out wherever I am next.

M: Thanks Rich

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