At this point in his career it would be foolish to expect Rich Harden to be a workhorse starter. His injury history means that the Cubs will be constantly rolling the dice, hoping that he can turn in strong performances while other pitchers do the heavy lifting. That said, there wasn't any reason to think that Harden wouldn't be ready to go when Spring Training gets under way at the end of February.
That prognosis has changed, however. According to sources who spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times, Harden has a tear in his shoulder. It's an injury that can be treated with surgery or managed with therapy and a work schedule that lessens stress on the joint. Harden's opted for the latter, and he's been working out like a demon, but there's still reason for concern.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild spoke to a group of Cubs fans after watching Harden work out.
''He's not close to throwing off a mound yet. There's some issues there, no question.''
Assuming Harden's condition doesn't worsen, the news shouldn't change much about the way the Cubs handle him. He wasn't being counted on for 30 starts or 200 innings, but it could up the pressure for the Cubs to make a move for another starting pitcher.
Jake Peavy, you say? Those talks have been dormant for quite some time and all indications are that the Padres will start the season with their ace in hand. The sluggish market for free agents makes for some interesting options, however. Maybe the Cubs kick Ben Sheets' tires and try to cobble together a full season from Sheets and Harden, or they could take Randy Wolf for a season.
Remember, kiddies, you can never have enough starting pitching.