Injury-prone Harden gets shot with Twins

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Rich Harden.

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The Twins' search for starting pitching has led them to a power pitcher on the comeback trail.

Righthander Rich Harden, a strikeout machine when he has been healthy, signed a minor league contract with the Twins with an invitation to spring training. Harden, 31, missed all of last season while recovering from January surgery to tighten his shoulder capsule.

To say that Harden has been hampered by injuries is like saying the Twins lost a few games the past two seasons. Harden has been on the disabled list 10 times in his career, five times with shoulder problems. After going 11-7 with a 3.99 ERA for Oakland in 2004 and showing plenty of promise, the British Columbia native has failed to pitch more than 148 innings in a season since.

Despite the trips to the DL, Harden is 59-38 with a 3.76 ERA in his career and has struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings.

The Twins were interested in signing Harden last offseason, but Harden paid a visit to noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews and decided to have shoulder surgery.

Since he signed a minor league deal, Harden can stay back in spring training when the team heads north or join a Twins affiliate until he is ready to contribute. That makes the acquisition a low-risk move with the potential for a nice payoff.

"The [Twins] doctors were very impressed with him," Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said. "He said his shoulder has been tightened and it's just a matter of how it responds when he gets to high gear."

Harden remained in Minnesota after visiting the Twins this week. Why? His wife is from Bemidji and they recently bought property there.

Diamond has surgery

Pitchers are starting to loosen up their arms and throw a ball around, with spring training two months away. When Scott Diamond began to throw, his elbow hurt.

A bone chip was discovered and was removed Tuesday, the Twins announced. Since Diamond lives in New York, the surgery was performed by Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek.

Diamond should be ready to go by spring training, but he has been ruled out of the upcoming World Baseball Classic for Canada.

Nonroster invitees

In addition to Harden, the Twins will invite the following nonroster players to spring training: Righthanders Bryan Augenstein, Nick Blackburn, Deolis Guerra, Alex Meyer, Lester Oliveros and Anthony Slama; outfielders Brandon Boggs and Clete Thomas; infielders Jeff Clement, Chris Colabello, Ray Olmedo and Mark Sobolewski; and catchers Kyle Knudson, Danny Lehmann and Dan Rohlfing.

Farewell, Jim

Twins director of minor leagues Jim Rantz, who has been with the organization for 52 years, worked his final day Friday, but the new retiree will help his replacement, Brad Steil, with the transition. Rantz pitched for the Gophers, earning a victory in the deciding game of the 1960 College World Series. He also roomed with the late Herb Brooks.

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