Well – we can’t say this is a surprise at all. When the Cubs dealt Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton and 2 others to acquire oft-injured starter Rich Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin from the Oakland A’s during the middle of the 2008 MLB campaign, we also knew there was a risk that Harden could end up on the shelf for an extended period of time during his tenure as a Cub. Unfortunately, it looks like that day has come sooner than we expected. The Cubs have announced that Harden does have a slight tear in his right shoulder. The tear is kind of in that gray area – it could be repaired with surgery, but it could also be treated successfully with therapy, a strengthening program and a well-manged workout schedule. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild added that Harden is not close to throwing off of a mound yet, and that there is some issue with his right shoulder that needs to be addressed. Harden has been going through a rigorous off-season program aimed at strengthening the arm, but he is still experiencing some soreness there.
Harden made 25 starts for the A’s and Cubs in 2008. Harden was 5-1 with each team, and he performed exceptionally well for the Cubs in his 12 starts. He pitched 71 innings and had an impressive 89 strikeouts during that stretch. He had a 1.77 ERA and 0.97 ERA for the Cubs.
With the trade of Jason Marquis a few weeks ago, and now the injury issue with Harden, it doesn’t look good for the Cubs starting rotation. The Cubs are set with Carlos Zambrano (who had some injury issues of his own a few times during the course of the 2008 MLB season), Ryan Dempster, and Ted Lilly. Sean Marshall was expected to win the 5th spot in the rotation, but now he could be forced into the 4th spot and the Cubs would need to have another competition for the 5th slot. Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman and newly acquired Garrett Olson could all step up, but we’d rather have Harden pitch every 5th day instead of one of those guys.
We’ll keep you posted here at MyCubsToday, but for now, it doesn’t sound too promising.