TORONTO -- When Rich Harden was pulled after just 86 pitches last Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, the first thought was whether the A's right-hander had something wrong physically.

As it turns out, Harden was less than 100 percent before he even took the mound that day. He began feeling the effects of a strained back muscle while throwing a side session during the Bay Bridge series against the Giants, shortly after the A's returned from Japan.

The injury was enough for the A's to delay Harden's next start until Saturday in Cleveland, though Harden is downplaying the severity of it. He was initially scheduled to pitch Tuesday's series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I still plan to go Saturday," Harden said before the A's 9-8 win. "We just thought we should .. push my start back."

An MRI on Sunday showed Harden has a strain of his right subscapularis muscle, which is located at the underside of the shoulder blade and stretches to the upper arm.

Harden said he felt the effects against Boston and pointed to the sporadic radar gun readings on his fastball.

"I was throwing my fastball 85 (mph), then I'd throw another one 93," he said. "It wasn't coming out consistently. (But) it worked to my advantage. (Boston's hitters) didn't know what was coming."

Even a minor injury has to trigger concern for the A's. Various injuries limited Harden to just 32 starts from 2005-07.

Hello again

Former Athletics Marco Scutaro and Shannon Stewart are both with Toronto now.


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Scutaro, traded to the Blue Jays over the winter, is doing his usual thing -- serving as a valuable fill-in at third base with Scott Rolen nursing a broken finger.

Stewart signed a minor-league deal with Toronto during spring training but fought his way on to the 25-man roster.

The outfielder is still miffed at the difficulty he had finding a job after a stellar 2007 season with the A's.

Word was Stewart was looking for a three-year deal as a free agent. He denied that Tuesday but still wonders how much that belief might have scared off prospective teams. He parted ways with agent Greg Genske over the winter and admits he's not sure what messages teams may have been receiving.

"Maybe I should have stepped in (to clarify things with teams)," Stewart said. "There's no way it was a three-year deal. I would have taken (one) year from Oakland. Why not?"

The A's ended up signing veteran outfielder Emil Brown to a one-year, $1.45 million deal in January. Stewart, seeing part-time action in left field for Toronto, is making $1.5 million, with a $250,000 bonus if he reaches 400 plate appearances.

Scutaro, who spent four seasons with the A's, said it was a jolt when the team dealt him. But he's enjoyed a smooth transition in Toronto.

A fan favorite in Oakland, Scutaro said he's looking forward to the Blue Jays' first visit to McAfee Coliseum on May 27-29.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "It will (bring back) a lot of memories."

Short hops

Catcher Kurt Suzuki's 3-for-5 night lifted his average to .414. ... Infielder Donnie Murphy took batting practice Tuesday with a protective sleeve on his sprained right middle finger. He did not get in the game but pronounced himself OK to play after suffering the injury Saturday.

-- Joe Stiglich