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Notes: Harden pitches simulated game

Notes: Harden pitches simulated game

ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Rich Harden reported no problems during or after his 30-pitch simulated game Saturday, the first time he's thrown pitches semi-competitively since mid-July.

Harden, on the disabled list for the second time this season because of a strained right shoulder, threw only his fastball and changeup during two 15-pitch simulated innings several hours before the Athletics-Rangers game on Saturday night. If he emerges Sunday with no abnormal discomfort, he will likely throw another simulated game with a higher pitch count next week in Seattle in hopes of pitching again for the A's before the season ends.

"It went well," said Harden, who has pitched only 25 2/3 innings this season because of the shoulder trouble. "We'll see how I feel [Sunday] and go from there. But, compared to how I felt a couple months ago when I was coming back the first time, I feel a lot better now."

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The 25-year-old right-hander landed on the disabled list for the fourth time in his five-year career from April 16-June 21. But that comeback lasted only 6 2/3 innings (three relief appearances and one start) before Harden landed back on the DL for a stint that will reach 60 days on Sunday.

With only 19 games left in the season, it remains questionable whether Harden will make it back before the Sept. 30 finale.

"I'd like to see him out there again, because I know how much he means to our team and to our chances of winning a game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "But the important thing is that he's healthy and he feels good. If he can pitch in [another] game this year, it would be a bonus."

Harden said he is through discussing timetables for a return, since any change or delay is often construed as a setback.

"It's better just to go off how I feel," he said. "I really haven't had a bad day in a while. This is something I've been through before, but we're approaching it differently than before. I'd like to get in a game or two here [before the season ends], not so much to prove anything to myself, but maybe to everybody else. But we'll just have to see."

Melhuse bides time: With a day game on Sunday following Saturday's night game, starting catcher Kurt Suzuki almost certainly will be rested in the series finale. That means a backup catcher will be employed, but veteran Adam Melhuse expected to see Rob Bowen's name in the lineup Sunday.

Melhuse, 35, continues to sit in something of a no-man's land this season. He signed a one-year, $815,000 deal with the A's in January, but was traded to Texas for cash considerations on June 9. After hitting just .206 in 23 games for the Rangers, Melhuse was released on Aug. 24. The A's re-signed him a week later, but entering Saturday, had not used him since his return.

"This year has been really crazy," said Melhuse, who has hit a combined .213 with one home run and nine RBIs in 35 games for the two teams.

With both the A's and Rangers out of the playoff chase, Melhuse twice has been trapped in situations where he wasn't the starting catcher and only saw sporadic action as the backup because his teams wanted to audition younger catching prospects. July is the only month in which Melhuse got more than 22 at-bats (he had 29 that month). He knows his poor numbers and advanced age will likely leave him having to compete for a job next spring.

"I don't feel like I'm 35. I feel like I've got a lot left in the tank," Melhuse said. "I still feel like I can play and be a very productive player. But looking at my age on paper might raise questions for some teams. It's going to be up to me to go to Spring Training, wherever that is, and prove them wrong. Years ago, I had to prove I belong. Now I have to prove I still belong."

Melhuse said his biggest regret was not playing better in his limited opportunities with Texas. He said he apologized to Rangers manager (and former Athletics coach) Ron Washington, who would hear none of it.

"Everything about being in Texas was great, except my performance," he said. "It stunk, and I have no one to blame but myself. I don't know how many times I apologized to Wash. He said I had nothing to apologize for, but I felt like I needed to. My performance was unacceptable."

Signs of the times? Melhuse was back at Rangers Ballpark, wearing a visitor's uniform, just 14 days after being released by the Rangers. Were members of his former team irked they had to change signs thanks to his return?

"I don't even know if they did change them or not," Melhuse said, laughing.

Briefly: SS Bobby Crosby planned to take light swings on Saturday after cutting short that activity Wednesday because of soreness in his left wrist. Crosby said his broken left hand has healed nicely, but the wrist is sore because of scar tissue buildup from five weeks in a cast. Crosby said he was "hopeful" he can return to action in the season's final two weeks. ... Geren said he has heard no confirmation of the rumor Major League Baseball might have his team open next season against the Seattle Mariners in Japan. A preliminary 2008 schedule is expected to be out by next week. ... Mark Ellis' errorless streak reached 100 consecutive games on Friday, a record for an Athletics second baseman. ... Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani threw out the ceremonial first pitch and took some swings during Rangers batting practice on Saturday. Rangers owner Tom Hicks is the Texas State Finance Chairman for Giuliani's campaign, and some contributors reportedly paid $15,000 apiece to be on the field with Giuliani and attend a reception before the game.

Up next: LHP Lenny DiNardo (8-8, 3.70 ERA) is scheduled to face Texas RHP Kevin Millwood (9-11, 5.11) in Sunday's finale of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. PT.

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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