PHOENIX (AP) -- Look at Rich Harden's line and it sure would seem like Oakland's strong-armed right-hander had a great day.
He didn't agree."How many walks did I have?" Harden said. "I know it was a few. Not good. My command wasn't there."Still, Harden struck out seven, walked two, allowed five hits and one run in five innings during the Athletics' 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. When his fastball wasn't working, Harden went to his offspeed stuff with no problem, getting outs with change-ups and sliders."It was good to see Rich go five innings," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He looked good."While he wasn't dominant, Harden was sharp -- and that's a good sign for someone considered the ace of the staff following Barry Zito's offseason departure to the San Francisco Giants. Harden struck out Josh Fields to end the initial inning, then retired the next six batters in order before Jermaine Dye singled leading off the fourth only to go out when the next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, grounded into a double play.Harden's stretch included consecutive called third strikes to Alex Cintron and Paul Konerko on sliders."He's just got electric stuff," said Oakland's Nick Swisher, who played first base for the first time in a couple of weeks but will primarily be in right field to start the season. "If one pitch ain't working, he can throw three others. That's what's so dangerous about him."The 25-year-old Harden is slated as the No. 3 starter for the A's behind Dan Haren and Esteban Loaiza, setting him up to pitch the home opener against the White Sox on April 9.Harden went 4-0 with a 4.24 ERA in only nine starts last season -- spending two stints on the disabled list with an elbow injury. He returned to pitch in Game 3 of an AL championship series loss to the Detroit Tigers.He considered his outing Tuesday a good test. Harden had walked only one total batter in three previous appearances, two starts."It was good that I had to work through that," he said. "I finished up with a decent feeling. I was forced to throw some off-speed stuff."Lou Merloni hit a three-run homer in the second for Oakland, which won for only the third time in its last seven Cactus League games."He got under it a little bit, but he hit it hard," said White Sox starter Charlie Haeger, who was done after 3 1-3 innings and isn't where he wants to be at this stage. "I'd give this spring a C-plus for me. I'm not really satisfied with it."Haeger had gone only four innings in two spring appearances before Tuesday.The A's plan to have shortstop Bobby Crosby in the lineup for his first spring game Wednesday night against Kansas City in Surprise. The 2004 AL Rookie of the Year, who hasn't seen action since Aug. 21 because of a back injury, went 2-for-6 with a double and a single and played seven innings in the field during a minor league game Tuesday.He will likely go three to five innings against the Royals.Brad Halsey, the pitcher who gave up Barry Bonds' 714th homer last season, pitched one inning for his first save and still is very much in the mix for the A's fifth starter job. He and Joe Kennedy, both lefties, are fighting for the spot."I still think it's wide open," Geren said.
White Sox CF Luis Terrero lost his glove over the fence trying to make a leaping catch on Merloni's homer. ... A's OF Bobby Kielty, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee March 2, took batting practice on the field for the second straight day and will do so again Wednesday -- meaning he could be back in a game in about a week. "He will be really close on opening day," Geren said. "It's not a problem of time. If Kielty, and Crosby for that matter, are physically able, we can get them a bunch of at-bats in a hurry." ... A's RHP reliever Justin Duchscherer was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Wednesday.