INDIANAPOLIS -- Right-handed pitcher Rich Harden, who has a reputation of having overpowering stuff but also being injury-prone, has officially replaced Kevin Millwood in the Rangers' rotation. Texas announced Thursday that Harden has passed his physical and agreed to a one-year deal worth at least $7.5 million with a mutual option worth $11.5 million in 2011.
Harden will receive a base salary of $6.5 million in 2010 with another $3.5 million in incentives that are maximized at 195 innings pitched. He receives a $1 million buyout if his contract is not picked up for 2011. Harden, who relies mostly on a high 90s fastball and devastating changeup, was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts for the Cubs in 2009. In 141 innings, he struck out 171 while allowing 67 walks and 122 hits. Harden's 10.91 strikeouts per nine innings were the most by a National League pitcher. Opponents hit .234 off him, the 13th lowest in the league. "Our scouts who have watched him say he's a guy who when he is out there and on top of his game gives you a chance to shut down a lineup as well as anybody in the game and dominate a game as well as anybody," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We just want him to stay healthy and take his turn. Where that ends up at the end of the year as far as the number of starts or the number of innings, that will take care of itself." In 2008, Harden split the season between the Athletics and Cubs and went 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA in 25 starts. He pitched 148 innings and struck out 181 while allowing just 96 hits and 61 walks. He just doesn't pitch deep in the games. Harden has averaged just 5.66 innings per start over the past two years while averaging 17.1 pitches per innings. That's the 12th-highest ratio among 94 Major League pitchers who have thrown at least a combined 250 innings over the past two years. The biggest concern is his health. Harden is one of the most overpowering pitchers in the game but has had a difficult time staying healthy. His 26 starts for the Cubs in 2009 were the most since making 31 starts for the Athletics in 2004, his first full season in the Major Leagues. He also pitched 189 2/3 innings that year but that was the last time he pitched more than 150 innings in a season. That was also the last season he did not spend at least some time on the disabled list. Harden missed five weeks in 2005 with a strained left oblique muscle and was on the disabled list twice in 2006 with first a strained back muscle and then a sprained right elbow. He ended up making just nine starts that season. In 2007, Harden made just four starts and three relief appearances for the Athletics while dealing with a strained right shoulder for most of the season. A strained right shoulder sidelined him for five weeks at the beginning of the 2008 season and he missed almost a month this past season with a strained back. "I think he has probably grown and learned to manage his body," Daniels said. "The injuries the last couple of years were more nagging than anything structural. We understand the risk and we're comfortable with the level of risk. We feel confident we've done our homework." Harden was a 17th-round Draft pick by the A's in 2000 and was born in Victoria, British Columbia. His 50 career wins rank 13th in Major League history among pitchers born in Canada. He played junior college baseball at Central Arizona College where he was a teammate of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.