Spring brings optimism. Sometimes so much optimism that you believe crazy, irrational things. Things like Rich Harden pitching in the majors this year. As you’ll recall, he signed a minor league deal with the Twins back in December and he’s giving it yet another go:
“It felt pretty good,” said Harden, who is trying to make the club as a non-roster invite. “It was fun. It was good to get back out there. I’m hoping it’ll feel the same when I start facing hitters. I threw mostly fastballs because I’m trying to get that feel back.”
Harden did not pitch at all in 2012. In the two years before that he posted a combined ERA of 5.36 in 35 games. He has pitched over 150 innings exactly once in his career, and that was in 2004. I would venture a guess that he has had more surgeries than wins over the past three years.
Which is sad, because there was a time when his promise and his stuff looked so, so good. Unfortunately his body is simply not built to withstand throwing the same pitches that his talents enable him to throw. It’s sad, and I hope his comeback is successful, but it’s very hard to see this ending well.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.
Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”
Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.
Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.