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The Next Big Thing?

Ramp

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credit:espn.com
Rich Harden is making the perfect case for turning the Oakland Athletics' Big Three into the Big Four.

Harden, a right-hander for Double-A Midland of the Texas League, just might pitch his way into the company of Oakland's Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder if he keeps this up. On Tuesday night, Harden pitched seven more perfect innings and struck out eight as Midland defeated Round Rock 4-1.

Harden has retired all 39 batters he's faced -- 17 by strikeout -- in two starts. Suffice to say, the outings of Oakland's No. 5 starter, journeyman John Halama, will be of heightened interest.

How will Harden fare against teams other than Round Rock? Midland won't know that until late next week, after his scheduled Sunday afternoon start against the Express. The game is Midland's home opener.

In Midland's season opener Thursday against Round Rock, Harden pitched six perfect innings in a 5-0 victory. He has been pulled early from the games presumably because of predetermined pitch counts.

Only two perfect nine-inning games have been pitched in the Texas League. Consecutive perfect innings are not recorded by league statisticians.

Harden, a hard-throwing 21-year-old from Victoria, British Columbia, has been watched by a host of scouts in both of his starts. The A's selected him in the 17th round of the 2000 free-agent draft.
 

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