ANAHEIM -- Not only was A's right-hander Rich Harden smiling while talking with reporters Monday, he actually initiated the chat.
That, for anyone not versed in the Harden saga, is very, very good news for Oakland.
It means Harden, who has grown so tired of questions about his health over the past three-plus seasons that he'd recently morphed into something of an automaton, feels like he's close to coming back.
Placed on the disabled list early this month with a strain under his right shoulder blade, Harden, who has been on the DL six times since the start of the 2005 season, moseyed up to A's manager Bob Geren's daily pregame media session and provided a breakdown of the workout he'd just wrapped up.
The workout was Harden's first extensive work since a 50-pitch simulated game in Seattle on Saturday, and it included some long toss at "180, 200 feet" and 25 pitches in the bullpen.
"All fastballs, just to get a feel for that," Harden explained. "Everything [I do] comes off that pitch, so if that's there ..."
If that's there, Harden's arsenal of offspeed pitches becomes that much more effective. But before he can get back into Oakland's rotation, he'll have to make one or two rehab starts in the Minors. The first is scheduled for Thursday in Sacramento.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.