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Notes: Harden working on mechanics

Notes: Harden working on mechanics

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PHOENIX -- It was another tale of two A's pitchers: Rich Harden getting knocked around a little bit by the Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Saturday and Justin Duchscherer pitching three scoreless innings against the Mariners in Peoria.

Both of them, recovering from injuries that prematurely ended their 2007 seasons, came out of it healthy, which is all anyone can ask at this juncture of Spring Training.

"It was a tough call for me," said A's manager Bob Geren, who remained in Phoenix where his club came from behind in the ninth inning to win, 7-6, on Todd Linden's two out, two-run, bases-loaded single. "I wanted to watch them both pitch."

Harden, making his second spring start after missing most of last season with a sore right shoulder, was roughed up for three runs on four hits and a walk in the first inning. He ultimately allowed seven hits -- five of them for extra bases -- four runs, two walks and a home run, while whiffing two in his three innings.

Technically, Duchscherer had a much better day than Harden as the A's also prevailed in the other split-squad game, 5-2. Duchscherer, making his second appearance and first start since reconstructive hip surgery last July, allowed just one hit, no walks and struck out one.

"There was no pain, there's a little tightness," Duchscherer said about his hip. "That's the benefit of being a starter. You have four days off to rest."

Harden was particularly cheery about his performance, saying he was working on realigning his motion so that his arm, hip and legs all moved fluidly in a straight line toward the plate. Until this past Monday, Harden hadn't pitched since last July 7, meaning that he's slowly trying to put the pieces of his motion back together.

Asked what working on these mechanics would help, Harden replied: "Everything."

And he's correct. In short, the more a pitcher can align the front of his body (leg and hip) with his hand coming over the top of his shoulder, the better his control and velocity will be, plus the sharper his pitches will be. When everything is working, Harden throws four varieties.

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"I actually felt great today," Harden said. "There were some things I had to work on and some things I was trying out. My command wasn't really there. I was throwing strikes, but not really where I wanted them to go. I didn't want to get frustrated out there. I wanted to stay loose and work on what I was doing."

Harden said that bullpen coach Ron Romanick noticed the flaw while viewing tapes of Harden that were a few years old. Thus, it has only been a matter of days since the right-hander has begun to incorporate the change into his motion.

"When you're pitching in pain, you kind of change your mechanics," he said. "I found out that I've hardly been using my left side at all. It was kind of awkward to work on it in a game. That's what I was trying to work through to today throwing my offspeed pitches. I just couldn't do it. But that's something that will come. You want to get to the point where you don't have to constantly think about these things. You want to be able to just do it. That should come with repetition. It felt awkward for a little while, but then it finally felt natural going back to what I used to do.

Cust hit: Jack Cust was hit in the head by Cubs starter Sean Marshall to lead off the fourth and had to leave the game. He was examined immediately in the dugout by the team doctor.

"He's OK," Geren said.

Cust, though, said that his head still hurt as he left the clubhouse and headed off for precautionary X-rays. He doesn't expect to play on Sunday.

"I'm alright," Cust said. "I'm just a little dizzy. I guess it hit my helmet, but I got cut on my head. When it first happened I kind of wanted to stay in. But when I got up I felt a little woozy."

Barton cleared: Rookie first baseman Daric Barton was given clearance to take batting practice on Sunday and could play in Monday's game against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., Geren said. Barton missed his seventh consecutive game on Saturday because of soreness on the outside of his left hand. Barton is 0-for-7 this spring.

"All I know is that I'm hitting tomorrow, and that's what I'm looking forward to," Barton said. "I'm getting a little anxious. I've been anxious since Day 1. If you don't get to play, it bums you out a little bit."

Up next: The A's host the Brewers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. It's their third meeting of the spring, with the clubs splitting the first two games. Right-hander Joe Blanton will make his third start of the spring against left-hander Chris Narveson.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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