Thursday, February 14, 2008

San Jose Mercury News - A's Harden says he felt pressure to pitch with pain

A's Harden says he felt pressure to pitch with pain
Right-hander: 'It's insulting. . . . I know what's best for myself'
By Joe Stiglich
Bay Area News Group

PHOENIX - Rich Harden said he is optimistic he can achieve his first injury-free season since 2004 but criticized the A's for their handling of his injuries in recent years.

"The whole year (last season) I've got people in the organization telling me I'm fine, that I've got to pitch with pain," Harden said after reporting to training camp Wednesday. "It's insulting, because they don't know what's going on."

Harden was intentionally unspecific with his finger-pointing. Asked who was applying this pressure, he said, "I've got a lot of stuff to say. I don't want to say it."

Harden, 31-18 with a 3.60 ERA during his career, was limited to 32 starts over the past three years because of injuries, and he had biceps tendinitis this winter.

Last season, the right-hander second-guessed a decision to have him pitch in relief as he tried to come back from a strained shoulder suffered in April.
Harden made three relief appearances in June but landed back on the disabled list because of the shoulder injury after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in a July 7 start. He said he partly went along with the idea to relieve in response to the perception within the organization that he wasn't tough enough to pitch through pain.

"That's what's frustrating - you get people in the organization questioning whether or not I can pitch with pain," he said. "That's what's hurt me in the past. I've gone out there (and pushed it too much)."

That played into his decision to bypass two starts scheduled in September to gauge his progress.

"I know what's best for myself," said Harden, 26.

General Manager Billy Beane was asked if he or anyone else pressured Harden to pitch against his will.

"I don't recall that," Beane said. "We were just trying to get him healthy as quickly as possible.

"As always, Rich's medical condition will determine whether he's ready to pitch, and he lets us know on a regular basis. Given the fact that he pitched very little last year, he obviously wasn't feeling good enough and therefore wasn't on the mound."

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