• The Role of Rich Harden

    The Twins have multiple pitchers in camp recovering from different surgeries in the last year. Scott Diamond and Vance Worley had bone chips removed from their throwing elbow. Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson are recovering from Tommy John surgery. Another interesting name in camp is Rich Harden and he is trying to overcome some shoulder problems that have haunted him in the past.

    Harden is attempting to make his way back to the big leagues after missing all of last season. In 2011, he started 15 games for the Oakland Athletics at the end of the season. He didn't put up outstanding numbers as he threw almost 83 innings and had a 5.12 ERA. The hope was that he could rekindle some of the magic from his early years with Oakland but that wasn't the case.

    Last season, Harden didn't throw a pitch as he worked to recover from shoulder surgery. The last time he threw over 100 innings was in 2009 with the Chicago Cubs. His best years at the major league level were in 2004-2005. He threw over 300 innings with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.

    Minnesota signed Harden in the middle of December and his name was the most known out of any of the club's offseason signings. In the team's promotional video for the up-coming year, Harden was featured in the same section as Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. These other two names figure to have more of a role this season so where does Harden fit in?

    At the beginning of spring training, Harden was throwing off the mound. The team has taken a more cautious approach in recent days as he has only been playing catch. Harden has been throwing from 150 feet so it will be interesting to see when he gets back on the mound.

    Since Minnesota signed Harden to a minor league deal, there is a good chance that he will open the year in the minors. His deal also includes an opt-out clause but he doesn't have the option to do this until July 31. Usually players have the option to opt-out after a month or so if they aren't added to the MLB roster.

    The Twins still are unsure of what role they will ask Harden to fill. He has served as a starter and as a relief pitcher so the club can decide between either role. If the front office wants to have less stress on his shoulder, this could come in a relief role. His most successful seasons have been as a starter but his health is still a question mark.

    It is also tough to figure out a place for Harden on the 25-man roster. The team has plenty of other options for the bullpen and the starting rotation. It might take an injury or two to even give Harden a chance to crack the big league roster. Since some of the other starting pitchers are on their way back from injuries, there could be more than one trip to the DL this year.

    Harden is going to be an interesting player to keep tabs on this season. He seems destined to start the year in the minor leagues and that might be best for him as he comes back from injury. The team could start him at Double-A or Triple-A and he could be a veteran presence to some of the younger pitchers at those levels.

    Is Harden ever going to get back to the pitcher he was at the beginning of his career? Probably not….

    But the Twins took a low-risk chance on a guy that could make an impact for the team this year. It seems like a good deal to me no matter what his role ends up being.

    Where do you think Harden should end up? Starter? Bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Role of Rich Harden started by Cody Christie
    Comments 19 Comments
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      Bullpen. Save his shoulder and he has been a good strike out pitcher his career. Seems like a good spot for him.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      He should start. There isn't a starting rotation anywhere in the world who needs a strikeout pitcher more than the Twins starting rotation needs a strikeout pitcher. Of the 8 guys currently vying to be among the starting 5 out of ST not one of them is interesting enough to merit me wasting my time watching the games once the regular season starts. I'd tune in to watch Harden in the end of May or beginning of June no matter how bad the team is doing. I might even go to a game.....No I wouldn't. This team is repulsive with or without Harden. Maybe if they fire Gardy......
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'd say bullpen, for sure. I don't think that the Twins signed him with any intention of him being on the Opening Day roster. It sounds like Harden has been very upfront and honest with the Twins, so they knew what they were getting. They have the July 31 opt-out date, so this was a terrific signing. If they can get value from him on the big league roster, that's great.

      I fully expect him to begin the season by staying in Ft. Myers at Extended Spring training and getting into some games with them before getting a couple of games in with the Miracle, then figuring out where to go from there.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Play him as a starter unless there is the feeling he cannot do it.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      It is also tough to figure out a place for Harden on the 25-man roster.
      Not if he is back or close to back. Even at 80-85% Harden is easy the Twins' best starter. But that is a big if. As far as how he fits on the 25 man roster, that is pretty easy then

      The team has plenty of other options for the bullpen and the starting rotation.
      Quantity does not equal quality. The team had plenty of options (and then some) last season too...
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Becomming a top set up / closer would be the best thing for him for career longevety. but he may be happier as a starter and this last surgery could be what he needed to get back on track. I think he should start the season starting at AAA and decide from there after about 10 starts.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Not to be callous, but he's on a one year minor league deal. I don't see why injury concerns would stop the team from looking at him as a starter if that is the route Harden also prefers.

      Assuming this team is not going to compete and assuming at some point a rotation spot is needed, the only reason I can see to put him in the pen would be that perhaps Harden as a reliever would have more trade value seeing as teams likely would be less hesitant about his injury track record after proving himself for several months out of the bullpen. Of course he may have zero value if he only has 10-15 appearances before the trade deadline.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I really don't care where they put him. If he's finally healthy, he will be an upgrade. Ideally he'd bring some trade value at the deadline.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      I think the article's contention that Harden "has served as a starter and as a relief pitcher" is fairly inaccurate. He has started 160 of his 170 MLB games, and never had more than 3 relief appearances in any one season (and some of those were obviously rehab situations). He also started 71 of 78 minor league games, with 4 of those relief appearances coming in his debut professional season in 2001 and at least one more in a rehab assignment.

      Any attempt by the Twins to use him out of the bullpen will be a conversion. It may be a necessary one, due to his arm health, but relief pitching will be a new role for Rich Harden.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      I really don't care where they put him. If he's finally healthy, he will be an upgrade. Ideally he'd bring some trade value at the deadline.
      I'm of the opinion that if Harden is healthy, you try to keep him for 2014. He seems to be a stand-up guy and the Twins FO loves that kind of player.

      And the Twins will need more pitchers in 2014. That's a given.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I'm of the opinion that if Harden is healthy, you try to keep him for 2014. He seems to be a stand-up guy and the Twins FO loves that kind of player.

      And the Twins will need more pitchers in 2014. That's a given.
      Yes and maybe

      And he is also somewhat local so he might actually like to stay. The single issue with SPs and 2014 is the Correia contract, unless it becomes Blackburn 2.0. Speaking off, with Blackburn and Pelfrey and Morneau off the books, the Twins will have close to $20M to spend for pitching, which is about a quarter of their $80M payroll these days. If all goes well, I can see Gibson, May, Meyer, Hendriks, Diamond being the starting 5 in 2014, so not that much of a need...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Yes and maybe

      And he is also somewhat local so he might actually like to stay. The single issue with SPs and 2014 is the Correia contract, unless it becomes Blackburn 2.0. Speaking off, with Blackburn and Pelfrey and Morneau off the books, the Twins will have close to $20M to spend for pitching, which is about a quarter of their $80M payroll these days. If all goes well, I can see Gibson, May, Meyer, Hendriks, Diamond being the starting 5 in 2014, so not that much of a need...
      It's possible but I doubt both May and Meyer will force their way into the rotation in 2014. To boot, there's a good chance that one of Gibson, Hendriks, and Diamond will falter and leave another question mark. I think it's pretty much guaranteed the Twins will need at least one, probably two or more, starters in 2014.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Unless all of the pitchers we are putting out there right now work out and we wont need Harden, we should plan on him continuing his career and continuing it here....I just assumed the Twins would want to keep him for next season and the best way to handle him is to let him start in the minors and build up arm strength anafter 5-10 starts you can start seeing where he is likely to fit in and how his body is handling starting and make the decision at that point when there is more information available. If I had to make the decision now I would just put him in the pen and make him a set up guy.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      He's on a minor league deal. Ask Harden what he wants to do, and let him work towards that in the minors (or extended spring training) with a mid-season call-up in that role as the goal. If he manages it, awesome, if not, nothing lost. If he can manage to be healthy and pitching close to how he used to he would seem to be an upgrade over just about anybody currently slated for the role he wants, excepting maybe Perkins and Burton if that was what he wanted to do.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      If he gets his innings in and his shoulder seems fit, how can you not start him with this rotation? If he can perform decently through June I can see him garnering some value in trade. If not, he has a place in 2014 for sure, all 5 of Diamond, Gibson, Hendriks, Meyer and May will not be up in 2014, before September at least.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Harden was signed as a CYA for Ryan. He was never projected to be anything more than that. If Harden can prove himself--and that will be in the minors--he will be further evaluated. I would expect Ryan would prefer him as a starter as an emergency basis due to multiple injuries--like right now. But without multiple games of multiple innings duration, there is no way he will be inserted into the rotation.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      I'm not counting on him for a thing. Bullpen in Rochester is fine to begin with, figure it out from there. Anything he can contribute at the major league level is gravy, but if the Twins bullpen is already pretty good then he'll likely be thin gravy.
    1. JacksonvilleJack's Avatar
      JacksonvilleJack -
      Guys this is the 2013 Twins. Seth is right he'll stay in Florida when the team heads North, and then get starts in AA and Rochester. Let's see that will bring us to about May 1st. By that time the Tigers, Angels, Royals and Rangers will have made it painfully clear that the bottom half of the rotation can't make it out of the 3rd inning, or even the end of May. If Harden shows even a flash of his old self he'll be in the rotation.
    1. hakatack's Avatar
      hakatack -
      Quote Originally Posted by JacksonvilleJack View Post
      Guys this is the 2013 Twins. Seth is right he'll stay in Florida when the team heads North, and then get starts in AA and Rochester. Let's see that will bring us to about May 1st. By that time the Tigers, Angels, Royals and Rangers will have made it painfully clear that the bottom half of the rotation can't make it out of the 3rd inning, or even the end of May. If Harden shows even a flash of his old self he'll be in the rotation.
      Sadly this sounds about right to me...
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