• Twins Ink Rich Harden to Minor League Deal

    The Minnesota Twins continue to stockpile arms for what could be an interesting competition for a rotation spot this spring.

    First reported by the Star Tribune’s LeVelle Neal yesterday, the Twins moved quickly and signed right-handed starter Rich Harden to a minor league deal to include a spring training invite.

    Harden, 31, missed all of 2012 after a shoulder strain necessitated rotator cuff surgery.

    Interestingly enough, the injury’s origin, Harden believes, was sustained in 2007 when he tore the capsule attempting to field a comebacker bare handed against the Yankees. The Athletics did not disclose the injury because of medical privacy laws. In order to combat the problem, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Harden revamped his mechanics in 2008. The disruption in his shoulder may have sparked a lengthy list of other ailments as he tried to compensate for his original injury.

    When healthy, he has been a front-end type starter. In fact, dating back to 2008, no one has missed more bats than Harden. Armed with a lethal slider, Harden has a career swinging strike rate of 12.5% and has a career strikeout rate of 24.2%.

    Of course, the is plenty of risk suggesting that following a rotator cuff surgery, he may never fully regain his stuff prior to the repair. As Houston’s team physician, Dr. David Lintner, told MLB.com in 2007, unlike Tommy John surgery, rotator cuff repair is not nearly as easy to return from:

    "Rotator cuff surgery is trying to repair a frayed tendon, comparable to sewing a small hole together or sewing a large hole together with shades of gray in between. The main task with Tommy John surgery [is] you are reconnecting a cable or tendon. With the rotator cuff, you're talking about the shoulder and repairing a muscle and a tendon. But it's more than just repairing it, you have to be able to repair the muscle and yet have it be extremely flexible."
    Linter goes on to estimate that of pitchers who have complete tears of their rotator cuff, there is a fifty-fifty chance they get back on the mound.

    Harden could wind up this year’s version of Joel Zumaya: an oft-injured pitcher with tons of promise but ultimately ends up a failure to launch in Florida. That notwithstanding, the Twins have made a calculated signing and have acquired for pennies an arm that is capable of missing a substantial amount of bats – something lacking at the highest levels. If he does not pan out as a starter, Harden could still be a serviceable arm in the bullpen in a limited capacity.

    In addition to inking Harden, the Twins also announce their list of spring training invitees. The list includes pitchers Bryan Augenstein, Nick Blackburn, Deolis Guerra, Alex Meyer, Lester Oliveros and Anthony Slama; outfielders Brandon Boggs and Clete Thomas; infielders Jeff Clement, Chris Colabello, Ray Olmedo and Mark Sobolewski; and catchers Kyle Knudson, Danny Lehmann and Dan Rohlfing.

    Also revealed, starter Scott Diamond had a scope on his left elbow to remove some bone chips on Tuesday.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Ink Rich Harden to Minor League Deal started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 77 Comments
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SweetOne69 View Post
      It's a minor league deal so he will get paid the same as the rest of the minor leaguers (around $50k).
      I would like to know the value of the contract if he makes the at some point. I would have to think the contract has an out May 1st if not called up and possibly $1-2M for MLB contract.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      I think we've finally found an instance where the Twins' situation has played to their advantage. There were likely many teams who would've jumped at the chance to add Harden on a no-risk minor-league deal, but Minnesota offers him the best opportunity. Torn capsule surgeries are very tough to come back from, but he'll be a fun wild card to have in the mix. I'd be interested to see if he held up better as a reliever.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      This is a feel-good story with a strong local connection. There's every reason to believe that Harden goes the way of Zumyaya. But, these are the low-risk, high-reward moves that small-market and mid-market teams must make to stay competitive. Maybe it's the Twins turn to get a little lucky.

      I had the opportunity to meet the family last year during Harden's rehab. He was in Minnie for a family event. La Velle also reported, "Harden remained in Minnesota after visiting the Twins this week. Why? His wife is from Bemidji and they recently bought property there." Injury-prone Harden gets shot with Twins | StarTribune.com

      His stats say that he's 6'1" and 195 lbs. I'd say he's closer to 5'10" and 180. It just goes to show that throwing a baseball isn't just about being big. He's one of 46 pitchers to strike out three batters on nine pitches.

      Classy guy, good family. I wish him the best.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      I love this signing. On a side note, if Harden can't stay healthy in the rotation the Twins always have the option of putting him in the pen. He could be pretty valuable there. Fortunately for the Twins, most of their injuries have come from elbows, not shoulders. Perhaps they do something right to avoid it. Plus, they were able to keep Radke's arm on his body for the whole season so hopefully they can help Harden. I think this is a good situation for him and hope he succeeds.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Sounds like they will be taking a run at Brett Myers as well.
    1. by jiminy's Avatar
      by jiminy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I think we've finally found an instance where the Twins' situation has played to their advantage. There were likely many teams who would've jumped at the chance to add Harden on a no-risk minor-league deal, but Minnesota offers him the best opportunity. Torn capsule surgeries are very tough to come back from, but he'll be a fun wild card to have in the mix. I'd be interested to see if he held up better as a reliever.
      Good point. I bet there isn't a team in the league that wouldn't have signed him to this deal. But the Twins offer him the best shot and making the major league rotation. No one would give him serious money, but all he's really looking for at this point is a showcase. They should get as many of these guys as they can. Bring on Bedard and Webb!
    1. mako83's Avatar
      mako83 -
      Bring in Myers to and we might only have a marginal rotation but a really good bullpen. Correira is much better signing as a setup man.
    1. dmafret's Avatar
      dmafret -
      I agree.
    1. dmafret's Avatar
      dmafret -
      Thanks for the info, now I'm really pulling for him. Always like somebody with the home connection.
    1. lecroy24fan's Avatar
      lecroy24fan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I think we've finally found an instance where the Twins' situation has played to their advantage. There were likely many teams who would've jumped at the chance to add Harden on a no-risk minor-league deal, but Minnesota offers him the best opportunity. Torn capsule surgeries are very tough to come back from, but he'll be a fun wild card to have in the mix. I'd be interested to see if he held up better as a reliever.
      I see the potential of a career rebirth as a reliever. Greg Swindell had a good career as a SP and then ran into struggles for a few years. Then he signed with the Twins and moved to the bullpen and revitalized his career. Might be Harden's best shot.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      It is a fine signing and I like the tactic but hopefully Harden's not the last. Certainly you improve your odds by pursuing these sorts with a little more gusto than Jr has to this point. You only need one guy to pan out to make them all worthwhile.
      Truthfully, the odds of guys like Harden regaining their form after tearing a rotator cuff are probably lower than a guy like Deduno finally gaining control of the strike zone.
    1. Miraclemat's Avatar
      Miraclemat -
      Does anyone have a few success stories involving pithcers who have pitched well after rotator cuff surgury.....just wondering what to possibly hope for!
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miraclemat View Post
      Does anyone have a few success stories involving pithcers who have pitched well after rotator cuff surgury.....just wondering what to possibly hope for!
      Harden did not have rotator cuff surgery. He had shoulder capsule surgery. Details here in a SF Chronicle article.
      They are related procedures, but not identical. Here is a pictorial of a rotator cuff surgery. The Capsule surgery involves the tendon group underneath the one shown in the picture (Supraspinatus). There is a list of pitchers who had the procedure in the article (including Johan Santana) and the consensus is that there are not enough data points to figure generalized pitcher performance outcomes after the procedure.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miraclemat View Post
      Does anyone have a few success stories involving pithcers who have pitched well after rotator cuff surgury.....just wondering what to possibly hope for!
      Jimmy Key and Pedro Martinez come to mind. Key had a good year or two then retired. Martinez was ancient when he had his done. When he came back he did not last long.

      From a government research site
      PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS:

      Thirty-three MLB pitchers with documented surgery to treat rotator cuff tears and 117 control pitchers who did not have documented rotator cuff tears were identified.
      MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S):

      Major League Baseball pitching attrition and performance variables.
      RESULTS:

      Players who underwent rotator cuff surgery were no more likely not to play than control players. Performance variables of players who underwent surgery improved after surgery but never returned to baseline preoperative status. Players who needed rotator cuff surgery typically were more experienced and had better earned run averages than control players.
      CONCLUSIONS:

      Pitchers who had symptomatic rotator cuff tears that necessitated operative treatment tended to decline gradually in performance leading up to their operations and to improve gradually over the next 3 seasons. In contrast to what we expected, they did not have a greater attrition rate than their control counterparts; however, their performances did not return to preoperative levels over the course of the study.

      In other words, you can come back from the surgery but not as good. Flexibility is lost. Sort of like the same thing with a torn labrum for pitchers

    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Harden did not have rotator cuff surgery. He had shoulder capsule surgery. Details here in a SF Chronicle article.
      They are related procedures, but not identical. Here is a pictorial of a rotator cuff surgery. The Capsule surgery involves the tendon group underneath the one shown in the picture (Supraspinatus). There is a list of pitchers who had the procedure in the article (including Johan Santana) and the consensus is that there are not enough data points to figure generalized pitcher performance outcomes after the procedure.
      How much do you think flexibility is lost? Like with the labrum and the rotator cuff, the return would appear to be dependent on how much movement is lost.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      How much do you think flexibility is lost? Like with the labrum and the rotator cuff, the return would appear to be dependent on how much movement is lost.
      I think that it is too hard to tell because the procedure is too new. FWIW, part of Harden's issue allegedly was that shoulder was "loose" and there was too much movement. Possibly restriction of movement might benefit it. This is pure speculation and I guess we will find out. I would also suspect that it might depend on individual mechanics as well...
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      I think that it is too hard to tell because the procedure is too new. FWIW, part of Harden's issue allegedly was that shoulder was "loose" and there was too much movement. Possibly restriction of movement might benefit it. This is pure speculation and I guess we will find out. I would also suspect that it might depend on individual mechanics as well...
      Thank you for the rare (on this board lately) intellectual answer.
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