Left-hander Dallas Braden (1-7) will make his 13th start of the season Sunday.
Instead of starting Sunday, Harden, who has made only seven appearances this season, will fly to Los Angeles to get his shoulder checked out by Dr. Lewis Yocum. If all goes well there, he will join the A's instructional league team in Arizona.
"I think it's a little smarter to take this a little slower," he said. "There's no sense rushing things through and make these one or two starts. It makes a lot more sense to do this. It's a hard decision to make because I want to be out there."
The A's were hoping Harden could start Sunday and possibly again next weekend. He threw 77 pitches in a simulated game in Oakland on Tuesday in which he used all his pitches and felt fine. After throwing in the bullpen before Friday night's game, he made the final decision not to pitch Sunday, although it was something he had been considering anyway.
"It's something that's been on my mind lately," he said.
A's manager Bob Geren would have liked to have seen Harden pitch again this season, but he knows the most important thing is to have him ready for 2008.
"He feels good, but he'd rather err on the side of caution at this point of the season," Geren said.
Harden's last appearance came July 7, when he lasted 2 2/3 innings and surrendered four runs on five hits and three walks in a start against Seattle. He ends the season with a 1-2 record and a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings.
It's been another frustrating year for the 25-year-old pitcher, who made nine starts in 2006 because of back and elbow problems. Harden pitched well in his first three starts of the season. He held Seattle to three hits in seven scoreless innings in his first start, which resulted in a win. Harden followed that up with two more solid starts, allowing two runs in five innings against Chicago and limiting New York to one run in six innings in a loss. However, his shoulder began to bother him in the start against the Yankees and he was placed on the DL on April 16.
Through three starts, he was 1-1 with a 1.43 ERA, allowing three earned runs and striking out 20 in 19 innings. He finally returned to the A's in late June, pitching four scoreless innings in three relief appearances. The A's and Harden were finally confident enough for him to return to the rotation when he started at home against Seattle on July 7, but he gave up four runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Harden still felt soreness in the shoulder and was placed back on the DL a few days later for the fifth time in his career.
Harden hopes the slower pace of the instructional league will help him in his recovery process. He knows his adrenaline would be working overtime in a Major League game and he might overextend himself. Harden plans on joining the instructional league next week.
"I'll feel a lot more comfortable there," he said. "I may pitch in some games. That's something I'd like to do."
Braden takes the hill:
Braden's last start came Sept. 11 at Seattle, where he allowed four earned runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. His last appearance was Sept. 16, as he pitched three shutout relief innings against Texas. Braden's only win of the season came in his first start against Baltimore, on April 24. He allowed one earned run and two hits in six innings.
Outfielder Nick Swisher returned from his three-game suspension Saturday night. He was suspended for charging the mound last Sunday after getting hit by a pitch from Texas right-hander Vincente Padilla.
The three-game series ends with Sunday's finale at Jacobs Field at 10:05 a.m. PT. Braden (1-7, 6.41) meets right-hander Jake Westbrook (5-9, 4.41).