Rich Harden to compete for rotation spot with A’s, but bullpen also an option

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Rich Harden’s one-year, $1.5 million contract with the A’s became official yesterday and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’ll compete for a rotation spot in spring training, with a spot in the bullpen looming as the fallback option.

Harden indicated that he’d prefer to remain a starter, but told Slusser that he’s not against the idea of moving to the bullpen if necessary: “When I have pitched out of the bullpen I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve always wanted to do it sometime in my career, so I’m not opposed to it.”

Harden has essentially never been healthy as a starter, going on the disabled list nine times in eight seasons and throwing more than 150 innings just once during that time, so it would make sense to see if shorter outings as a reliever could keep him off the DL and perhaps even give his velocity a boost after his fastball lost some zip over the past few seasons.

He went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings spread over 18 starts and two reliefs outings for the Rangers, marking the first time Harden’s performance has slipped significantly along with his annual injuries.