Rich Harden to return from DL to start for Athletics on Friday

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No, this isn’t a dream. Rich Harden is about to pitch in a real live major league baseball game.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Harden will be activated from the disabled list to start Friday night against the Diamondbacks. In turn, Graham Godfrey will move to the bullpen to pitch in long relief.

Harden has been sidelined since spring training with a strained lat muscle, but has impressed over his first two minor league rehab starts with Triple-A Sacramento. He threw 4 2/3 innings in his last start Saturday, so Godfrey could theoretically piggyback him if the A’s have him on a pitch-count Friday.

This will be Harden’s first major league start since last September 29. He posted a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio over 92 innings with the Rangers last season and was subsequently left off the playoff roster. Of course, Harden was originally drafted by the A’s in 2000 and posted a 3.42 ERA over parts of six seasons with the club. His injury history speaks for itself, but the A’s could use his upside while they wait for some of their other pitchers to return from the disabled list.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.