CHICAGO -- In a bizarre twist to Boston's attempts to add a starting pitcher, a deal that would have sent Oakland right-hander Rich Harden to the Red Sox evidently fell through late Saturday night.
Harden told reporters in Oakland that he expected to make his next start for the Athletics, scheduled for Tuesday.
"It's dead," Harden told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't know what happened."
Later, he added to reporters: "I'm here and staying here. I'm happy to be part of this organization. I'm looking forward to starting Tuesday."
The deal for Harden would have sent minor-league first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named later to the Athletics. Anderson was removed from Pawtucket's lineup midgame Saturday night, and a high-ranking Red Sox official confirmed that a deal was done, pending a physical.
But that all changed shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, when Harden informed reporters that he wasn't going anywhere.
Harden has an injury history as long as a career felon's rap sheet -- he has made 10 trips to the disabled list in his career -- but the Red Sox were well aware of that when they decided to make what appeared to be one of Theo Epstein's patented, low-risk, potentially high-reward deals. Still, once the Sox investigated further Saturday night, they decided that Harden could not be counted upon, and the Athletics were informed the deal was off, according to a major-league source.
Thwarted in their attempts to acquire Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who elected not to waive his no-trade clause to stay with the Dodgers, and outbid by Cleveland for Colorado right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, the Sox turned to Harden.
Harden, 30, missed the first 82 games of this season with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle, the same injury that put Sox left-hander Jon Lester on the disabled list earlier this month. But in the course of a big-league career that began in 2003, Harden has had disabling injuries to his shoulder, hip, back, trunk and elbow. He also has had blisters. The never-ending cycle of injuries is one reason Harden has never won more than 11 games in a season, and has pitched more than 150 innings just once in his career, back in 2004.
Harden returned to Oakland's rotation in July and has made five starts, totaling 29 1/3 innings, with a 2-1 record and 4.30 ERA. His longest start came on July 16 aqainst the Angels, when he went seven innings, striking out nine and walking two, in a 4-3 win.
When healthy, Harden was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, with a fastball that touched 95 and off-speed stuff that included a splitter, change-up and slider. But all the injuries have taken their toll, one reason Harden has bounced around among the Athletics (three times), Cubs and Rangers.
With the trade deadline still hours away -- 4 p.m. Sunday -- the Red Sox could attempt to revive the deal, but that appeared unlikely. More likely, they will look elsewhere, though the pickings remain slim: Seattle left-hander Erik Bedard is one possibility, but so far both the Yankees and Red Sox have come up empty in their mutual search for pitching help. And how often have we been able to say that?
The Red Sox need a safety net in case Clay Buchholz returns from a visit to back specialist Robert Watkins in L.A. on Monday and reports that his back is in a lot worse shape than anyone has been saying to this point, even though it is six weeks and counting since Buchholz last pitched. You don’t send a guy with a bad back on a cross-country flight unless you’re really worried, regardless of how the Sox might spin it.
The Sox looked at other options first. They liked Kuroda, who indicated to L.A. management that he would be open to a trade to one of three teams -- the Sox, Yankees or Rangers -- then came out to the ballpark on Saturday and announced he wasn’t going to lift his trade veto powers for anybody.
They made a run at Jimenez that continued, according to one club source, even as reports were surfacing that the Indians had cinched a deal for him. When it was announced that Jimenez had been scratched from his start for the Rockies Saturday night, then made it after all (lasting one inning), the Sox source thought they might still have a shot, even though the Sox had maintained all along it was a long shot. But in the end, neither the Sox nor Yankees offered a package as attractive as the one proferred by the Indians.
With their options dwindling (Bedard was another, but there were serious questions whether he had the duende to thrive in the Boston pressure cooker), the Sox focused on Harden -- even if, as a safety net, he seemed as sturdy as a Kleenex trying to catch a bowling ball dropped from 20 stories.