James Richard Harden
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 180 lb.
- School Central Arizona College
- High School Claremont Secondary School
- Debut July 21, 2003
- Final Game September 25, 2011
- Born November 30, 1981 in Victoria, BC CAN
Rich Harden was a right-handed pitcher whose best seasons came for the Oakland Athletics. Born in the Canadian province of British Columbia, Harden went to school at Central Arizona College and was selected in the 17th round of the 2000 amateur draft. He had four very good pitches: a fastball, a splitter, a slider, and a change. Effective when healthy, injuries cost him significant time from 2005-2007. One of those injuries was a battle with shoulder soreness that caused him to miss the majority of the 2007 season.
Harden signed in May of 2001 and the Athletics sent him to the single-A Vancouver Canadians, where he made an immediate impact. He posted a 3.39 ERA and struck out 100 batters in just 74 1/3 innings. Harden was named "Athletics Minor League Player of the Year" in 2002, after he won 12 games between single-A and double-A, while striking out a total of 187 hitters. It proved to be Harden's last full season in the minors.
The Canadian was a starting pitcher for the World Team in the 2003 Futures Game; he allowed one run in an inning of work. After pitching well in the upper minor league levels in 2003, the A's called on Harden to start against the Kansas City Royals on July 21st. He gave up just one run in seven innings and struck out four in his major league debut. Harden went on to win his next three starts before losing to Esteban Loaiza and the Chicago White Sox. The young righty finished his rookie season with a 5-4 record and a 4.46 ERA.
Harden won 11 games as a 22-year-old in 2004. He recorded 167 strikeouts in 189 2/3 innings, posted a 3.99 ERA, and won eight games in the season's second half. The injury bug bit Harden in 2005, as he missed a good deal of time with an injured oblique muscle. He put up good numbers while healthy, earning a 10-5 record and a 2.53 ERA. Harden pitched two complete games in 2005, both against the Texas Rangers. He missed a third complete game by one out.
A multitude of injuries sidelined Harden in 2006. He started the season 3-0 but went to the DL with a strained lower back. He returned for a game in June, but had to return to the DL with a strained ligament in his arm. Harden appeared for the A's late in the season, even making a playoff start, but did not appear to be at full strength.
Harden made three tremendous starts in April of 2007, giving up just three runs in 19 innings while striking out 20 batters. He then sat out all of May and most of June with a sore shoulder. He was back with the squad in late June to work in relief. He made one start before falling back to the disabled list with a strain in his right shoulder.
In July 2008, Harden was traded with Chad Gaudin to the Chicago Cubs for Sean Gallagher, infielder Eric Patterson, outfielder Matt Murton and catching prospect Josh Donaldson. He had been 5-1, 2.34 in 13 starts for the A's, the went 5-1 again, with a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts for the Cubs, for a combined mark of 10-2, 2.07. In 148 innings, he gave up just 96 hits while striking out a whopping 181 batters. However, when he started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 4th, he gave up 3 runs in 4 1/3 innings and was charged with the 3-1 loss, ending the year on a sour note. Because of his recent history of injuries, he declined an offer to pitch for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. With the Cubs in 2009, he was 9-9, 4.09 in 26 starts, with 171 Ks in 141 innings, as the Cubs failed to return to the postseason.
Harden signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in 2010, but he was limited to 20 appearances, during which he went 5-5, 5.58. The fact that he struck out only 75 batters in 92 innings indicated that he did not have his customary stuff. The Rangers reached the World Series for the first time in team history that year, but he was not on the postseason roster. He then returned to the Oakland A's for the 2011 season, but he continued to struggle, with a record of 4-4, 5.12 in 15 starts. He signed with the Minnesota Twins for 2012 but failed to make the team and retired.