WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Oakland Athletics right-hander Rich Harden gave up one hit in one inning of relief for Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday, clearing the way for his return from the disabled list.
Out since April 16 with a strained right shoulder, Harden struck out one and looked sharp in the only minor league appearance of his rehab. Harden, who also threw 27 pitches in a simulated game on Monday, is expected to rejoin the A's as a reliever for this weekend's series against the New York Mets.
``It's just more getting a feel today and throwing my changeup and throwing some offspeed pitches,'' Harden said. ``My fastball was a little bit up today but other than that I got a couple down, made some good pitches and that's what I wanted to do.''
Harden entered to start the seventh and allowed a leadoff double to Gookie Dawkins on a 2-2 pitch before retiring the next three batters. He threw 16 pitches, 12 for strikes, fanning Tacoma center fielder Adam Jones for his only strikeout. He reached 93 mph with his fastball.
``Everything looks like a go for Friday,'' A's manager Bob Geren said in Oakland after the A's beat Cincinnati 5-3.
Assistant general manager David Forst watched the game on television and said Harden ``looked good.''
The plan is for Harden to work out of the bullpen until he builds up his arm strength. He has made five relief appearances during his career, most recently on Oct. 1, 2005.
The A's have been short-handed in the bullpen with closer Huston Street and top setup man Justin Duchscherer sidelined with injuries.
``There's been a lot of pressure put on the 'pen right now,'' Harden said. ``They've been doing a great job but they definitely can use an extra guy down there. With the way our starters have been going, too, they've been doing really well consistent. If I can help the team out in the pen I'm happy to do that.
``Instead of coming down here for a few weeks trying to build up for 80, 90 pitches, I can throw an inning, two inning, three innings and build up.''
Projected to be the ace of Oakland's staff, Harden was 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts before his latest stint on the DL. He was on the disabled list twice in 2006 when he was plagued by lower back and elbow injuries that limited him to nine starts. Harden was also on the DL twice in 2005.
He left his April 15 start against the New York Yankees in the seventh inning with stiffness in his throwing shoulder and had not faced live hitting until this week.
``It's great,'' Harden said of his shoulder. ``It's just giving yourself enough time to warm up. Figuring out a routine for yourself, that's the biggest thing. I'm used to starting and I'm used to a set routine. Everything has a set time when you start games.''
Harden was throwing for the second time in three days. He struck out three in a simulated game on Monday in Oakland.

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