The hard throwing right-hander came up in the majors in 2003 and started 13 games for the Oakland A's. He had a solid year in 2004 starting 31 games with a 3.99 ERA and in the very next year (which had him missing more than a month due to an oblique injury) he had a 2.53 ERA with 19 starts. Sadly, everything has been downhill and down at rehab ever since with just 38 starts the past 3 seasons.
The truly sad thing is that Harden has amazing stuff. His blazing fastball is complimented perfectly with a great changeup. His splitter is also one of the best in the majors as some of the most experienced hitters have trouble with it. Over 612.2 career innings of work, he has a stellar 612 strikeouts. He had even more pitches in his repertoire including a decent curveball before getting hurt with trainers and coaches wanting him to scale it back.
This season, for Rich Harden and Cubs fans alike, is a season of optimism. Many Cubs fans talk about how important Zambrano is to the starting rotation and how the re-signing of Ryan Dempster was the most important move that Jim Hendry made this offseason. Well, this is true, but the impact of a healthy Rich Harden would be massive. This is especially important because of the health of Zambrano the past couple of seasons. I really wouldn't be surprised if people were taking bets on who would get hurt first...
There is no other player that I have become as intrigued about as Rich Harden. I love watching this guy pitch. I really hope for both of our sakes that this is the year where I get to see him pitch without going on the DL every time he seems to get hot. I still cringe every time this guy throws anything but a fastball to be honest.
However, this is a season of hope for Cubs fans... again. Cubs fans (and I) hope that Rich Harden and others will be healthy. Cubs fans hope that they can advance to the NLCS this year. And Cubs fans will always hope that this is the year that "It's Gonna Happen." With a healthy Rich Harden, it may actually be the year for the Cubs. He's that good.