OAKLAND, Calif. – It appears right-hander Rich Harden is returning to his Oakland roots.
Harden has agreed to terms on a one-year contract to rejoin the Athletics. A person with knowledge of the deal confirmed Wednesday to The Associated Press that Harden was coming back to the A's. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Harden must take a physical — and he has had his share of injury problems — before a formal announcement is made. The A's may announce the deal by the end of the week.
Harden went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA in 20 appearances and 18 starts last season for the AL champion Texas Rangers. But he was designated for assignment after the regular season to give him his unconditional release after he struggled with injuries and control.
Harden, who began the season as the Rangers' No. 2 starter, walked 62 batters in 92 innings. He is expected to be used out of the bullpen by A's manager Bob Geren, who has a formidable starting rotation heading into 2011: Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.
Oakland had penciled in Hisashi Iwakuma as a possible fifth starter but last week failed to reach agreement with the Japanese right-hander during the allotted 30-day negotiating period, sending him back to his Japanese club.
The No. 5 spot could go to several candidates, including Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross or left-hander Josh Outman, who missed last year recovering from Tommy John surgery but made a strong impression in the instructional league this fall.
The A's must hope Harden stays healthy by assuming a relief role.
Harden spent two stints on the disabled list in 2010, first from June 12-July 30 with a left gluteal muscle strain and later with right shoulder tendinitis.
Oakland saw him miss his share of time, too.
Harden went 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in only 25 2-3 innings in 2007 because of an inflamed right shoulder, and didn't pitch after July 7 that year. He threw two simulated games late in the season with the hopes of making two final starts, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth risking further injury.
He was 4-0 in nine games in 2006, spending time on the disabled list with a strained back and then a strained elbow ligament.