Shut down in mid-March with a strained shoulder, Rich Harden threw a bullpen session this morning and reported no problems.
Harden is still a simulated game followed by a minor-league rehab assignment from potentially coming off the disabled list, and given his extensive injury history counting on him to avoid further setbacks is obviously wishful thinking.
A’s manager Bob Geren indicated to Jane Lee of MLB.com that the team is in no rush to get Harden back and also hinted that they may view him as a reliever at this point despite signing him to compete for a rotation spot.
Harden no doubt wants another chance to start, but his best chance to make an impact and stay off the DL for more than a few weeks at a time is probably in the bullpen anyway.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.