Notes: Macha negotiations to begin

Notes: Macha negotiations to begin

OAKLAND -- Ken Macha woke up Wednesday with five days left on his contract as the A's manager. If all goes well over the weekend, his short-timer status could change shortly.

Macha's agent, Alan Nero, and Oakland general manager Billy Beane are scheduled to exchange proposals for a new deal Saturday. Nero is said to be looking for a three-year commitment for his client, presumably with a significant bump from Macha's 2005 salary of about $620,000.

Nero and Beane have had little in the way of substantive talks this season, and Beane on Wednesday essentially stuck to his long-standing policy of refusing to discuss ongoing negotiations.

"I don't comment on anything like this until it's appropriate," he said, "and right now isn't that time."

Macha didn't want to get into anything specific, either, but he did view the planned exchange as a positive step.

"Sure, it's good," he said before the third game of a four-game series against the Angels at McAfee Coliseum. "You can't get to B without A."

There's been much speculation in the past month regarding Macha's future, fueled in part by the Pirates' firing of manager Lloyd McClendon. Macha, a Pittsburgh native who still lives in Pennsylvania, has been somewhat amused by the conjecture.

"Nobody's ever heard me say I want the Pittsburgh job, but everyone's writing it like I'm campaigning for the thing," he said. "I've always said I like it here, I like the team, I like the area, I like the organization. ... We'll see how things work out."

Macha was promoted from bench coach to the skipper's seat Oct. 29, 2002, and won the American League West in his first season at the helm. The A's were eliminated from playoff contention on the penultimate day of the regular season in 2004, and on Tuesday the Angels dashed Oakland's playoff hopes again.

Harden on Sunday? Macha said he spoke with pitching coach Curt Young about how to use Rich Harden in the coming days and suggested that Harden could start the final game of the season Sunday in Seattle.

"We'll see what his desires are," Macha said of Harden, who hasn't started since straining his right lat muscle on Aug. 19. "There's a couple different ways we can go there."

One is for Harden to continue working out of the bullpen. He pitched a shutout inning against the Rangers in his return to action Sunday, and on Tuesday he threw two shutout innings against the Angels.

The other option is for Harden to throw a side session Thursday or Friday and square off with Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez in a battle of radar gun busters in the regular-season finale. A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Harden typically has a large faction of family and friends in the stands when the A's are in Seattle.

"I kind of like pitching out of the 'pen. It's pretty cool," Harden said. "But I'm a starter, and [going up against Hernandez] sounds like a lot of fun, too. ... If it's totally up to me, that's probably what I'd like to do."

Another option would be to shut Harden down for the rest of the year to avoid the potential risk of further injury, but Harden isn't considering that one.

"Pitching is fun," he said with a smile. "I wouldn't be pitching at all if I wasn't OK to do it. Pitching is fun, and I want to pitch."

Dribblers: Shortstop Bobby Crosby, who had to leave Tuesday's game after banging his fractured left ankle while rounding third base, might not play again this season. "It's pretty sore," he said. "I don't think there's a definite answer either way yet, but it's pretty sore." ... Asked if he planned to rest any of his banged-up regulars in the coming days, Macha suggested that he owed it to his starting pitchers to play a competitive lineup. "We'll pick our spots," he said. Among those who might get some rest are center fielder Mark Kotsay (recurring back spasms) and third baseman Eric Chavez (sore right shoulder). ... Danica Patrick, whose rookie season on the Indy car circuit created much buzz among racing fans this year, was behind the batting cage while the A's hit before the game. Patrick's boyfriend does some physical therapy work for the team. ... Barry Zito, who founded Strikeouts For Troops this season in an effort to raise funds for U.S. soldiers recovering from injuries in military hospitals, visited with one such soldier in the dugout for 15 minutes during batting practice. Staff sergeant Sandy Perry-Rees, who served as an Army ground combat medic in Iraq, was invited to the game after she sent a note of thanks to Zito at She's currently recovering from surgeries on her feet and ankles as the result of an ambush on her convoy. A third surgery is scheduled for next month. ... Zito is featured in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated. He was the runaway winner in a poll that asked 450 big-league players to identify the best curveball in the game, garnering 35 percent of the vote to the 8 percent received by Milwaukee's Ben Sheets and Houston's Roy Oswalt, who tied for second.

Up next: Zito (14-12, 3.74 ERA) takes on Angels righty Bartolo Colon (20-8, 3.51 ERA) on Thursday in the series finale. The first pitch is scheduled for at 12:35 p.m. PT.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.