Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tuned up and ready to go

OAKLAND, Ca. - The Oakland A's, satisfied that Rich Harden is healthy and focused again, will start the righthander in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit Friday night.

The decision was made after Harden (4-0, 4.24 ERA this season) passed muster during a tuneup in the Arizona Fall League Monday.

"They felt good about how the ball was coming out of his hand," A's manager Ken Macha said before the best-of-seven ALCS began yesterday.

Macha felt good just being able to get the pitcher who was limited to just nine regular-season starts by injuries back in the mix.

Harden's most recent injury - a sprained ligament in his right elbow - idled him from June 5 to Sept. 20. Harden then did not impress in three September starts upon his return.

So once the post-season began, Macha dropped Harden to fourth in the rotation.

Harden never got to start, because the A's swept the Minnesota Twins in three games in the AL Division Series, behind the pitching of Barry Zito, Esteban Loaiza and Dan Haren.

Harden now moves ahead of Haren (14-13, 4.12 ERA in the regular-season). Because of what the A's saw Monday from the pitcher who was 14-5 with a 2.99 ERA in over the last two seasons.

"We specifically limited the number of pitches he threw yesterday for that purpose [of starting him Friday]," said Macha, reminding all of the bottom line:

"We are, I think, 9-0 in his starts this season."

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