Harden to skip next start, as precaution

Harden to skip start, as precaution

CHICAGO -- Rich Harden's next start won't be until next week when the Cubs travel to St. Louis, an extended break that general manager Jim Hendry said was planned for when they acquired the right-handed pitcher.

The Cubs' rotation for the upcoming trip to Cincinnati this weekend will be Ted Lilly on Friday, Jason Marquis on Saturday and Carlos Zambrano on Sunday. After an off-day Monday, the Cubs travel to St. Louis, and Ryan Dempster will open that series, with Harden starting either the second or third game.

"I'm fine with having a few extra days," said Harden, whose last start was Aug. 29 against Philadelphia when he gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks over five innings.

Harden was limited to seven games in 2007 and nine in 2006 because of elbow problems. This year, he was 5-1 in 13 games for the Oakland Athletics before being dealt to the Cubs on July 8, and was 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA in nine games with Chicago. He's reached 131 innings so far, his highest number since he totaled 189 2/3 innings in 2004.

"[Oakland general manager] Billy Beane gave me a lot of good advice on how he thought it would help him get through it the best," Hendry said of Harden. "Right from day one, we planned on giving him extra days, and sooner or later, skip one [start]. We'd be skipping one if we were five [games] behind."

The Cubs had a scout at six of Harden's 11 starts with the Athletics and monitored the other five, and the pitcher has passed all the tests.

"I knew I was going to skip one start," he said. "A few extra days doesn't hurt. I feel good."

When asked Tuesday, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said that Harden was being pushed back, but didn't specify why.

"He needed the time," Piniella said. "Obviously, if he could pitch, we would've kept him in the rotation."

Hendry said there's no problem; the extra time is simply precautionary.

"We'd be remiss not to try to give him a blow now and then," Hendry said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.