MINNEAPOLIS -- The Oakland Athletics are planning to start Barry Zito in Game 1 and Esteban Loaiza in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins. But manager Ken Macha said they won't decide until Tuesday if they are going to pitch Rich Harden in Game 3 on Friday in Oakland. He could pitch Game 4 on Saturday instead, or not at all. Macha said Harden is supposed to throw in the bullpen on Tuesday and the Athletics will see how that goes before making a decision. Harden started on Sunday against the Angels and lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on three hits and six walks.
"I talked to him today and he said he feels fine," Macha said. "I talked to the pitching coach [Curt Young], and neither of us were happy with the way he pitched. So we'll see how he is [Tuesday] and then make a decision." Danny Haren will start one of the two games in Oakland. Joe Blanton, a 16-game winner, will start one of the other ones if Harden isn't ready to go. Otherwise, Blanton will be in the bullpen. Macha said Harden would not be in the bullpen if he doesn't start in Oakland. Harden made just one start between April 26 and Sept 21 because of back and elbow trouble. He was activated on Sept 19 and made three starts, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA. He struck out 15 but walked eight in 11 2/3 innings. The Athletics haven't set their rotation, but they have set their postseason roster. Infielder Antonio Perez was left off because of a fractured finger and replaced by utilityman Hiram Bocachica. D'Angelo Jimenez also made it, replacing injured shortstop Bobby Crosby. The Athletics will carry 11 pitchers. In addition to their five starters, the Athletics will carry six relievers: closer Huston Street and right-handers Kirk Saarloos, Kiko Calero, Chad Gaudin and Justin Duchscherer, and Joe Kennedy, the only left-hander. Bearer of the ring: The Athletics do have a one player who has a World Series ring. "It's a 'B' ring," outfielder Mark Kotsay said. "The 'A' ring had the 'F' in the middle and was studded with diamonds. The 'B' ring had the 'F' in the middle, but it wasn't studded with diamonds."
Macha related a story that took place in the 2002 ALDS between the Athletics and the Twins. "We had Scott Hatteberg [at] first, Mark Ellis [at] second, and Art [Howe] was the manager," Macha said. "Somebody hit a popup to Hatteberg and he whiffed it, so I told Ellis, who was tremendous at popups, I said, 'Do me a favor, call Hatty off those popups.' "So the next thing, he went up there and there was another popup, so he was calling Hatty off the popup and there were a lot of people making noise and they ran into each other, and that ball dropped in, too." Offensive differences: The Twins led the American League in hitting with a .287 team batting average. The Athletics had the second lowest in the 14-team league with a .260 average. The Twins were also second in the league with a .296 average with runners in scoring position, while the Athletics hit .243 in those situations, the second lowest. But they weren't that far apart in runs scored. The Twins scored 801 runs, eighth in the league, while the Athletics were ninth with 771 runs. The Athletics closed the gap by hitting 175 home runs to the Twins' 143. The Athletics also drew 160 more walks. "They have a way of making their runs count a little different than we do," Macha said. "They put their runners in play more, they hit and run a little more, they have got a lot of hops and field hitters. Speed is a little more of a premium than it is with our club. Perhaps if we would have had a healthy Eric Chavez we probably would have hit a few more home runs than we did this year. "But Frank Thomas has certainly been a tremendous addition, and he has given us more of the power of our club, so we may score runs a little differently."
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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.