Rich Harden pitches well in return from disabled list

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Rangers right-hander Rich Harden was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday night and took the mound immediately against the Angels.  Coming off a six-week stint on the disabled list and entering the outing with a 5.68 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he got shelled.

But he didn’t.  Harden limited the Angels to five hits and one earned run over five innings while racking up three strikeouts and firing 62 of his 88 pitches for strikes.  The Rangers won the game 2-1 and the 28-year-old moved to 4-3 on the year.  He talked to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Anthony Andro afterward.

“It felt good. It’s been a long wait, just thinking about getting out
there. It’s not a good feeling not being able to pitch and not being
able to help your team out. I really wanted to go out and be aggressive
and put the ball in play.”

Harden had a brutal start to the 2010 season including a 5.68 ERA over five starts in May and a 7.31 ERA over three starts in June.  But ask any American League hitter — or just check the stats — and you’ll find that Harden is regarded as one of the nastiest starters in the game.  He employs a fastball-changeup combination that can be lethal and his 9.21 career strikeouts-per-nine innings rate is exceptional.  He’s going to play a major role for the playoff-bound Rangers down the stretch, and possibly into October.

Brewers to give Mike Moustakas a look at second base

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The Brewers reportedly signed third baseman Mike Moustakas to a one-year, $10 million contract on Sunday. While the deal is not yet official, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports that the Brewers plan to give Moustakas a look at second base during spring training. If all goes well, he will be the primary second baseman and Travis Shaw will stay at third base.

The initial thought was that Moustakas would simply take over at third base for the more versatile Shaw. Moustakas has spent 8,035 of his career defensive innings at third base, 35 innings at first base, and none at second. In fact, he has never played second base as a pro player. Shaw, meanwhile, has spent 268 of his 4,073 1/3 defensive innings in the majors at second base and played there as recently as October.

This is certainly an interesting wrinkle to signing Moustakas, who is a decent third baseman. He was victimized by another slow free agent market, not signing until March last year on a $6.5 million deal with a $15 million mutual option for this season. That option was declined, obviously, and he ended up signing for $5 million cheaper here in February as the Brewers waited him out. Notably, Moustakas did not have qualifying offer compensation attached to him this time around.

Last season, between the Royals and Brewers, the 30-year-old Moustakas hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI in 635 plate appearances.