ST. PETERSBURG -- Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony cautioned the news with a "knock on wood," but it appears right-hander Rich Harden is once again making progress in his lengthy recovery from right shoulder surgery.
Harden is set to throw live batting practice this week, according to Antony, and has felt no soreness in his lat, forearm, shoulder or anywhere else that's been a problem lately.
"There have been no setbacks this go-round. Everything's felt good. Every report, every time he's thrown a bullpen or done anything, it's been positive," Antony said. "So hopefully he can continue to progress."
The Twins' hope for Harden, Antony said, is that he'll be healthy and built up enough to pitch out of the bullpen for Minnesota this season.
"As the season's gone on, it becomes more of a struggle to try to do that. I guess the positive is that, if we can get him out there in the [Gulf Coast League] games and he feels good, we're looking at it [from] a reliever perspective," Antony said. "So if he can pitch an inning or two, then hopefully if he can back up and have three, four good outings, progress on and maybe move him up. Then get him to the [Class A Advanced Fort Myers] Miracle or something, then Triple-A -- yeah, that's the hope, is that maybe sometime this season he could come up and we could see where he's at facing Major League hitters."
The Twins signed Harden to a Minor League deal in December and would like to get a sense of what he can bring to the table this year since he'll be a free agent this offseason. But at this point, worrying about whether Harden can compete for a job on the 2014 Twins would be looking a little too far ahead.
"Right now, we're just trying to get him where he can throw live BP, get into games and not have any setbacks or any soreness," Antony said. "If he's healthy, then we can go from there."