Monkeyball has been chirping (or whatever primates do) for weeks that the A's should just shut Rich Harden down for the season and focus on his being healthy in 2007. Over the various times the subject has been broached, some have agreed, while others have suggested that hey, if Harden is medically cleared and can help the A's win the division or the ALDS, go for it. That often brings comparisons to K-Rod's presence in the bullpen in 2002 or Mariano Rivera's bonus impact a decade ago.
The one point I keep waiting to hear, though, is one I want to throw out there for consideration. Even if Harden is clearly healthy enough to pitch in 2006, why do we assume he would be an asset? I know, because he's Rich Harden, he of the Cy Young award stuff and the 4-0 record in the few appearances he's made this season.
But consider this:
- He hasn't pitched for 4 months, so he would be a tad rusty
- Opportunities for rehab assignments will not abound; it's kind of between tuning up for the major league playoffs against AA competition or not at all
- He could only potentially help the A's as a reliever (due to arm strength/pitch count issues) but has never pitched out of the bullpen, so he would be honing a new craft at the major league, playoff level
- The A's have three outstanding right-handed relievers, and with an ALDS game on the line, I want the experienced, "this is what I do" arms of Street, Duchscherer, and Calero, not the "I was a great starter until I was shut down from May-August" arm of Harden.
- Bringing Harden back, at whatever risk of reinjury, would mean, as I see it, giving us a luxury 4th right-handed reliever. Basically an upgrade from Gaudin or Saarloos--who are unlikely to see any meaningful innings anyway.