Rich Harden gave the Texas Rangers what they were looking for Friday: a solid outing.
Harden, who had yielded 15 runs on 14 hits and nine walks in his previous three starts, gave up three runs on four hits and five walks in 5 2-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to an Oakland Athletics split squad.
"It was a very positive outing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
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Washington had seen Harden have rough springs in the past when both were with the Athletics.
"I've seen Rich Harden have a very bad spring and come out and do well during the season," Washington said. "Rich has always been the kind of guy who uses spring training to get himself ready. He never pays attention to what happens. He tries to just correct the things he feels like he needs to correct and when the bell rings he's ready to go."
Harden is not concerned about his 9.17 spring ERA as much as being ready to start the April 5 season opener against Toronto. He had a 10.00 ERA in spring training last year with the Chicago Cubs. While Harden was throwing 86-88 mph the first two innings, he amped it up to 92-94 mph in the third.
"I know it's there," Harden said of his velocity. "I never felt the need to prove anything to anybody. People will always have their opinion and their worry. I don't think I've ever dealt with that before. Even last year I was around the same (velocity) in Chicago. They were going to make a big deal of it. As the season builds I'll be throwing harder and harder.
"I kind of picked up my intensity a little bit and started finishing my pitches in the third. I think the key for me was getting my off-speed going and throwing it well with good arm action, good arm speed. Then they started getting off my fastball. That's what I wanted to get going here late in spring, just get a feel for that."
Harden threw 102 pitches, 58 for strikes.
"I felt great the last few innings. That's right where I want to be during the season, continue that in my next start and be ready to go."
Ryan Sweeney doubled home Daric Barton, who walked four times, in the first inning for the A's, and Jack Cust singled to score Sweeney. Anthony Recker homered in the second off Harden. Jake Fox hit a three-run homer off Neftali Feliz in the ninth for the other A's runs.
Right-hander Vin Mazzaro, competing for the final slot in the A's rotation, allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings. Nelson Cruz singled in a run in the first, while Vladimir Guerrero scored on a Mazzaro balk.
"There were some times when I lost the strike zone a little bit with the fastball, but other than that I felt I threw the ball pretty well," Mazzaro said. "Today was a good day and something I really needed to build the confidence going into the season. After the balk I settled down."
Barton had his second four-walk game of the week and tops the Cactus League with 14.