SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Oakland Athletics right-hander Rich Harden gave up one run and three hits in his first rehabilitation start Thursday night, an encouraging sign for the injury-plagued pitcher.
Harden looked sharp in his brief stint for Triple-A Sacramento. He threw 50 pitches, 38 for strikes, and repeatedly worked ahead in the count.
``That's something I wanted to work on out here,'' Harden said. ``In my last simulated game I was a little wild and didn't have much control, so I wanted to come out today and just work on hitting my spots. I felt pretty good with that.''
Harden, who has been on the disabled list with a strain under his right shoulder blade since April 10, allowed a leadoff double in the first inning to Mitch Maier. He later scored on a fielder's choice groundout, but Harden gave up just two more singles the rest of the way.
Harden needed only six pitches to get out of the second inning and retired the final five batters he faced. He also showed good velocity, with the radar gun topping out at 95 mph.
``They were pretty aggressive and I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes,'' Harden said.
Harden, 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts, first felt sore while throwing a side session after Oakland returned from a season-opening series in Japan. He was able to pitch five scoreless innings against Boston on April 2 before an MRI exam revealed the injury.
The 26-year-old Harden was limited to seven games for Oakland last season because of shoulder injuries. He has been on the DL five times in the last three years.
Harden will meet with A's manager Bob Geren and trainers to discuss where he goes next. It's likely he'll need at least one more rehab start before joining the big league club.
``I'll go back to Oakland and we'll talk it over,'' Harden said. ``I feel pretty good. We'll see what they want to do and come to a conclusion.''
Harden reached his pitch count in the middle of facing journeyman Damon Hollins in the fourth inning Thursday night. Harden retired the first two batters of the inning and got ahead of Hollins before throwing a 92-mph fastball that ran high and inside.
Harden walked off the mound and paused while rubbing the ball in his hands before River Cats manager Todd Steverson jogged out of the dugout to meet him. The two spoke briefly before Harden handed the ball to Steverson and walked off the field with the count 2-2.
``It was a little strange to be pulled in the middle of an at-bat,'' Harden said, ``but it was 50 pitches and they're pretty strict on that.''

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