Harden Sharp In Stockton Rehab Start

Rich Harden made his first appearance in the California League since 2002 as he pitched six scoreless innings Tuesday night against his former team, the Visalia Oaks. The Stockton Ports' offense stole the headlines with a 14-run outburst, but Harden set the tone with a sharp performance in what should be his final minor league rehab outing.

Rich Harden, who entered the game with a pitch count of 80, allowed just three hits while striking out nine as he threw 69 pitches in six innings of the Stockton Ports' 14-0 thrashing of the Visalia Oaks.

Harden didn't allow a walk but did hit three batters. He didn't quite reach 80 pitches in his six innings, but finished the remainder of his 80 pitches in the bullpen. The Ports batted around in the bottom of the sixth leaving Harden sitting on the bench for longer than hoped.

"Overall I felt really good," Harden said.

"I was hitting most of my spots but every once in a while I would try to put a little extra on the ball and get a little wild. I felt strong throwing strikes and hitting my spots. Compared to last time in Sacramento, I wanted to work other pitches in besides mainly fastballs like I did in Sacramento. We really wanted to mix it up so it's more like I would pitch in the big leagues.

"Pitching tonight sets me up for Sunday, but I don't know what the plan is. We have a lot of guys that are doing well right now in the [Oakland] rotation. I usually don't have command like this, as usually I'm more wild, and I felt good in Sacramento, too, after the game."

Unlike in Sacramento where he threw 15 strikes to open the game, Harden threw the first six pitches for strikes before his first pitch out of the zone. For the game, he threw 53 pitches for strikes with just 16 out of the strike-zone. He had two innings where he needed just eight pitches to get three outs and the fifth inning was the longest with 16 pitches thrown.

Eight of his nine strikeouts came on swings-and-misses, as he struck out four in a row from the end of the second through the third inning, all swinging. He retired nine straight after a lead-off single before hitting two batters in the fourth inning.

Right-hander Jared Lansford came on in relief for Harden and followed with a brilliant three innings of work, retiring the first eight before a two-out triple in the ninth which he followed with a strike-out to end the game. He earned his first save of the season despite the 14-0 final score. Lansford struck out three and lowered his ERA to 4.35 with the scoreless effort.

Jermaine Mitchell hit a two-run homer for the Ports for the final runs of the game and with that hit made sure that every Ports batter had a hit on the night in their 16 hit-attack. Jed Morris, who was the Cal League's Player of the Week last week, led the way with three hits and five RBI, while Sean Doolittle also homered for his eighth homer of the year. Darryl Lawhorn, who was in at third base for Frank Martinez, went 2-for-4 with three RBI.

The Ports will continue their pitching rotation as it was before Harden arrived, meaning that James Heuser will get the start Wednesday morning with Brett Anderson getting the start Thursday night. Trevor Cahill will open the road trip instead of ending the home-stand as originally planned. The Ports will welcome the rehabbing Keith Foulke on Wednesday, as he's scheduled to throw 30 pitches and will likely come out of the bullpen like he did Monday in Sacramento, when he allowed one hit and one run in two innings of work.

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