Rich Harden Strong In Debut

Too bad bullpen can't hold lead as Cubs lose 4-3

While the Cubs weren't making that big of a deal with it during spring training, you have to figure Rich Harden's performance in Arizona was giving Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild some heartburn.  Always an injury risk, questions about Harden's health first popped up in early March when he chose to skip the World Baseball Classic and not pitch for the Canadians.

That decision though wasn't based on Harden's health as much as it was the fact he didn't want to risk hurting himself and putting the Cubs chances this season in jeopardy.  Still, when Harden took the mound this spring it was hard not to notice the drop in velocity in his fastball.  His fastball itself was pretty hard to miss for opposing batters as Rich gave up hits and runs at an alarming rate and finished the spring with a 10.38 ERA.

Everything came to a head in last weekend's exhibition at Yankee Stadium.  Harden got the start in that game and lasted 3.2 innings while giving up eight runs and three homers to the Yankees.  Thankfully for Cubs fans, spring training and the regular season are not the same thing.

Harden made his regular season debut on Friday afternoon in Milwaukee as the Cubs took on their rivals to the north, and absolutely dominated the Brewers lineup.  His fastball velocity is still down from it's mid-90s past, but with the way Harden was able to use his changeup to keep the Brewers off balance, it didn't matter.

Harden pitched six innings and struck out ten while allowing only three hits and two runs.  Of course, as with any Harden start, he had to be removed after six innings when his pitch count reached 96.  Still, if this is any indication of the kind of performance the Cubs can expect everytime Harden takes the mound, Lou Piniella will take it.

Unfortunately for Harden and the Cubs, a shaky outing by the bullpen and bad defense by Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot cost the team a victory when the Brewers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to lose 4-3.

Along with writing for, Tom Fornelli can also be found contributing at FanHouse, SPORTSbyBROOKS, and his own Chicago sports blog Foul Balls

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us