Harden is 16-7 with a 2.81 ERA in 40 games -- 34 of them starts -- over the last three full seasons. He was off to another good beginning this year with a win against Boston and five more shutout innings against the Red Sox on April 2 before getting injured.
So will the A's baby the injury-prone ace?
"He might throw between 70 to 100 pitches," A's manager Bob Geren said before Saturday's game against Texas. Geren later narrowed that to 75 to 90 pitches, but he was really non-committal about a pitch count.
Harden has looked good in two rehab starts, one with Triple-A Sacramento and one with Class A Stockton. He had a 1-0 record with a 0.93 ERA. He allowed six hits and had 13 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.
OAK: RHP Rich Harden (1-0, 0.82 ERA)
Harden has always been good when healthy. He had a no-decision in his last start on April 2 against Boston when he pitched five shutouts innings with six strikeouts. He is 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA in 11 appearances -- 10 starts -- against the Rangers.
TEX: RHP Sidney Ponson (2-0, 1.33 ERA)
Ponson has had a stunning first three starts for the Rangers. He allowed just one run in seven innings in a 10-1 victory at Seattle on Tuesday. Ponson has given up three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. He said the creaky elbow that gave him problems during a brief stint with Minnesota last season is healthy again. Ponson has struggled against the A's. He is 3-3 with a 6.58 ERA in 13 games -- 10 starts -- against Oakland.
Reliever Kiko Calero has started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento. Calero, who didn't pitch this spring because of a torn right rotator cuff, is eligible to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list on May 27. Geren said he couldn't predict when Calero will return to the team. Calero has been at extended spring training. ... Third baseman Eric Chavez (offseason back surgery) will run the bases on Sunday, his final key test before he is ready to go out on a rehab assignment. Chavez is expected to stay with the A's for most of the rest of their nine-game roadtrip that takes them to Cleveland and Atlanta. Chavez fielded slow rollers and bunts for the first time Saturday and everything went well, trainer Steve Sayles said. Chavez is eligible to come off the 60-day DL on May 27. ... The A's had gone six consecutive games without an error entering Sunday's game.
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Official game notes
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Tuesday: Athletics (Justin Duchscherer, 3-1, 2.45) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 1-3, 4.28), 4:05 p.m. PT
Wednesday: Athletics (Joe Blanton, 2-5, 3.82) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 2-5, 6.55), 4:05 p.m. PT