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The Oakland Athletics have made at least one phone call recently to gauge interest in right-hander Rich Harden, that being to the Boston Red Sox, according to one source. They have not, however, contacted some of the organizations with the top-end farm systems – the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays – so it is likely that general manager Billy Beane isn't serious about trading Harden, yet.

Harden, of course, has some of the best stuff in baseball, if only his various body parts and hinges would go along.

He was healthy and effective in spring training and was dominant in three early starts, but hasn't pitched since April 15 because of a sore shoulder. Last season, back and elbow ailments limited him to nine starts. The season before, he made 19 starts, missing the rest because of strains in his left and right sides, though not at the same time, which would have been better.

Word out of Oakland is Beane is considering a roster rebuild if the A's don't look like contenders approaching the trading deadline, meaning the phone calls won't begin and end with Harden. There also could be bats to be had in veterans Mike Piazza and Milton Bradley and spare left arms in Alan Embree and Joe Kennedy, depending on how deep Beane is willing to go.

Meantime, Harden could require another couple weeks of rest and rehab, followed by at least a month's worth of Harden-like starts in order for Beane to get something close to full value for him.

"It would be a calculated risk," one baseball executive said. "But, I would take the risk for the right price."

The call to the Red Sox could have been an effort to tempt the New York Yankees, who are not yet frantic over their starting pitching, but could be soon and, perhaps, should be.

FIVE …

• The Chicago White Sox are beginning to think about adding a bat. A month in, they are last in the AL in batting and near the bottom in runs, OPS and plenty of other offensive categories. The only two guys who were hitting consistently – Jim Thome and Scott Podsednik – are on the disabled list. GM Kenny Williams targeted his bullpen in a busy and controversial offseason and, indeed, the bullpen has been pretty good. His starters, however, have been inconsistent and, by the looks of things, neither Freddy Garcia nor Brandon McCarthy would have helped. And the offense hasn't covered many of their mistakes. The White Sox are hoping someone bites on third baseman Joe Crede.

• Saw Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Chris Young, a right-handed hitter, hit two home runs Monday night, the first to right field off Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf and the second to left field off right-hander Rudy Seanez. Both home runs were hit on elevated fastballs. It's rare to see an opposite-field home run this time of year at Dodger Stadium, rarer still when it comes off the bat of a 180-pounder. When I asked a scout if he'd seen what Young hit, he replied, "Titleist. Pro V1."

• You've really got to see Dodgers catcher Russell Martin play to appreciate his energy, his enthusiasm for the game, and his feel for leading a veteran pitching staff in just his second season. Asked if Martin reminded him of anyone, Manny Mota mentioned Ivan Rodriguez first, then shook his head and said, "Tony Pena. He's a young Tony Pena." Grady Little, on the same question: "Players who played before our time. I don't know who."

Randy Johnson surprised everyone in Sunday's start by throwing about 30 split-fingered fastballs and perhaps 20 sliders, despite a fastball that had good velocity (92-93 mph) and life. A scout who saw the game said Johnson used the splitter most often early in counts to set up his other pitches. Diamondbacks officials blanched a little Monday morning when they read the following quote from Johnson in the East Valley Tribune: "Everybody else is light years ahead of me. I'm 43 and coming off back surgery."

• Gotta say, Kip Wells had us going there for a second. After three starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, he was 1-2, but his ERA was 3.12 and he was averaging nearly seven innings a start. It looked like Dave Duncan had given Wells all the leftover Jeff Weaver mojo. In three starts since, Wells is 0-3 with a 9.72 ERA. At issue: Wells had 18 strikeouts and seven walks in starts one through three, seven strikeouts and eight walks in starts four through six.

… AND FLY

New York Mets fans let David Wright (.244, 0 home runs, 6 RBI) have it during his 0-for-5, four-runners-left-in-scoring position escapade against the Florida Marlins last night. Last year, it was Yankees fans on A-Rod, on his way to 121 RBI. Next year, Bambi gets it.


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