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Pitching Pains With an October Twist

Some interesting notes in the world of pitching injuries, and how they have and haven't affected playoff teams:

The Cubs may have missed out on this year's NLCS, but they took their first step in planning to get back to the playoffs yesterday, picking up a $7 million, one-year option on midseason acquisition Rich Harden.

Based on performance, the Harden option was an absolute no-brainer; he finished the season with an ERA of 1.77 in the NL after reaching Wrigley. Unfortunately, with James Richard Harden, performance has never been the problem. Getting the erstwhile Oakland ace on the mound in the first place is where you run into trouble. Harden has hit the DL six separate times, and he complained of shoulder soreness in the stretch run this year, leading to some delayed starts for the Cubs. In fact, Chicago didn't pick up the 2009 option until Harden had a shoulder inspection, which found no structural damage in his rotator cuff.

That was enough for the Cubs to pull the trigger and bring him back, but should it have been? And will the more conservative approach of rest and rehab for his arm keep Harden in the game?

It's a question that's particularly relevant after an interesting announcement by Curt Schilling's personal doctor on Wednesday.

Craig Morgan, the former Red Sox head of medicine who performed the famous cadaver surgery on the Boston ace's ankle that helped him start Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS in Yankee Stadium and Game 2 of the World Series, said Wednesday that Schilling would have been ready to throw in the ALCS if the team had followed his advice and authorized right shoulder surgery last winter.

Instead, Boston's medical officials, fearful of a failed post-surgical rehabilitation regimen that would have forced Schilling to miss the entire season, insisted the right-hander only rest and rehab his inflamed joint and try a comeback without surgery. In turn, it was that lack of surgery that kept Schilling from throwing a competitive pitch in 2008, leaving the Red Sox scrambling for a fifth starter among the failed or injured crop of Clay Buchholz (both failed and injured), Bartolo Colon (injured) and Justin Masterson (successful before being sent to the bullpen) before finally settling late season pickup Paul Byrd.

Could Harden become the next Schilling by resorting to rest to heal his shoulder? Can he duplicate his success of 08 and 2004 (31 starts, 3.99 ERA) with Chicago in 2009? Perhaps most intriguingly, will lenina4sammy still be on board to cheer for Harden next April? His listing was pulled down by eBay, so no one seems to know whether he/she had a change of heart or whether eBay decided loyalty just wasn't a legitimately transferrable commodity.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 9, 2008; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Cubs , Red Sox  
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