The SF Chronicle’s Ray Ratto spent Valentine’s Day in Phoenix quizzing Oakland P Rich Harden, a chat that has the scribe saying of the starter,  “his days of trying to pitch through injuries and rushing himself back because he and his superiors didn’t have the patience to wait for him to fully heal are done.”

After a season in which he was disabled twice (shoulder strain, then an impinged tendon), was put in the bullpen to try to facilitate faster healing, and then declined to make two late-season starts so as not to risk another setback in a meaningless game, Harden worked with new bullpen coach Ron Romanick to tweak the right-hander’s offseason regimen. Romanick had worked with Harden when he began his pro career in the A’s system.

Harden stridently defended his decision not to make those two late-season starts as “one of the smartest things I’ve ever done,” and vowed to take greater control of his career.

“The end of the year was a big step for me, making the decision to shut it down,” he said Wednesday. “That’s one thing I can take from the last couple years of injuries, dealing with doctors and stuff, I know what’s best for myself and I’ve got to stand up for myself because really there is no one who is going to besides me.

“I can’t help it, I’m a competitor, I can’t stand to sit on the bench. So I would pitch when I was hurt, or rush myself back.”

He also claimed that, though he didn’t worry about what most people say about his resume of fragility, he was and remains unhappy with “people in the organization” who doubted his resolve and accused him of not pitching through pain.

“The whole year, I had people in the organization telling me I’m fine, that I have to pitch with pain,” he said, repeatedly declining to say who those people were. “I had people telling me that, and it’s insulting. That’s the frustrating thing. There’s been some stuff that’s been going on.”

Then his voice trailed off, and he said, “I probably shouldn’t say anything else.”

“Every (injury) I’ve had, I’ve stayed out there,” he said. “I will not pull myself or take myself out, and that’s what hurt me in the past. I’ve tried to pitch through stuff and that’s where these injuries have happened, and that’s why I’ve spent more time on the DL.

“Without a doubt, 100 percent, that’s what happened, and that’s something that’s frustrated me, because you get people in the organization questioning your ability to pitch with pain and they have no clue who I am or what I’m about. I don’t like that. That’s one thing that does frustrate me, when it’s people in the organization who question me. When it’s coming from our organization, that definitely fires me up.”

General manager Billy Beane, not surprisingly, denied that the organization pressed Harden into returning before he was ready.
“I don’t recall that. We were just trying to get him healthy as quickly as possible,” Beane said. “Hopefully, he’ll be out there this year, and if he’s not healthy, he won’t be out there. He knows that better than anybody.

The Boston Herald’s Rob Bradford
quotes Theo Epstein as claiming the Red Sox were one of the few teams to have turned over their hard drives to former Senator George Mitchell’s investigators. So there you have it, the Yankees were all over the Mitchell Report just because Brian Cashman doesn’t want anyone to know how many (terrible) albums he’s downloaded via Limewire.