Though Harden’s first regular-season start was pushed back by a blister, he has built on a stellar spring in which he led the Cactus League with 29 strikeouts. The young right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA and has yielded only one earned run in 13 1-3 innings in his two starts.
Harden, 23, failed to qualify for a decision after allowing four hits in eight scoreless innings of Oakland’s 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Despite a promising start to the year, Harden doesn’t believe he’s pitching his best just yet.
“I’m not really feeling great yet,” Harden said. “My velocity is down a little bit, but my changeup helps. In the past, I’d just try to throw the ball by people, but now I’m using more of my pitches.”
Harden is looking to build on a breakout 2004 campaign. The hard-throwing Harden went 11-7 with 167 strikeouts and a 3.99 ERA in 31 starts for Oakland last season. He was 0-1 with 17 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA in two starts against Seattle over that span.
The Athletics hope to bounce back after a 7-6 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday. Greg Dobbs drove in three runs with a pinch-hit double off rookie Huston Street in the seventh inning to secure the win for Seattle.
Bret Boone gave the Mariners a 4-0 lead in the first with his sixth career grand slam.
Seattle has won two straight and three of its last four. The Mariners improved to 1-0 on their five-game home stand against Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.