So far so good for Rich Harden. The Cubs have been taking it slow with Harden so far this spring. Harden threw 43 pitches in a simulated game on Friday and came away unscathed. Harden will follow up with a side session on Sunday, and if all continues to go well, Harden will make his 1st spring start against the Seattle Mariners in Mesa on Tuesday, March 10th. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild had this to say about Harden: “Each time out, he’s made strides and there’s been no setbacks so far – - knock on wood. He’s progressing really well.”
The Cubs would like to get Harden 6 starts before the start of the 2009 MLB season – he is slated to be the Cubs 4th starter this year. The Cubs could also skip Harden’s start every once in a while like they did in 2008 to keep Harden fresh. In 12 starts with the Cubs during the 2nd half of the 2008 MLB season, Harden went 5-1 with a nasty 1.77 ERA.
If the Cubs could get 25 starts from Harden and double digit wins, that would be a big accomplishment. While we love the optimism, let’s see how Harden does after he’s made a few appearances in a row this spring. The test has always been to see how well Harden can sustain the normal wear and tear on his shoulder during the course of the season, so consistent outings with no soreness will make us feel a lot better about his health status. It’s also nice to know that Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman (the 2 pitchers battling for the 5th starting pitching spot) have both looked great this spring, so even if Harden has a hiccup before or during the season, it’s nice to know that one of those guys should be able to step right in and be a reliable and productive addition to the starting rotation.