HOUSTON -- A's closer Huston Street, out since May 13 with an irritation in the ulnar nerve in his right elbow, had been targeting the All-Star break as the point he had hoped to be return.

That now looks as unlikely as ever.

Street, who had just recently started playing catch, was doing so on Friday in San Francisco and felt his elbow was too sore to play catch again and has been shut down.

The A's are now thinking about the possibility of sending Street to seek the opinion of a third elbow specialist.

"[Huston] wants to," assistant general manager David Forst said. "So right now we're looking for the right guy."

Street already has seen the Oakland team doctors and renowned elbow specialist Lewis Yocum in Anaheim, and it has been determined that surgery doesn't appear to be something that will help.

"Our doctors and Dr. Yocum have agreed that it is not an operable condition," Forst said.

Alan Embree has done a very good job in the closer's role, saving seven of eight as of Tuesday, but Street's prognosis could determine what course of action the A's take as far as seeking a player outside the organization.

"If we knew something long term, it might change the way we look at things," Forst said. "But we're still under the impression that he'll return at some point this year."

Harden closer: The A's have been without Rich Harden since he left his April 15 start against the Yankees with an injury to his pitching shoulder, but with every passing day the right-hander is getting closer to making his return.

Harden threw 30 pitches before Tuesday night's game in Houston against the Astros, making 15 pitches from halfway up the mound and then another 15 from on top of the mound.

The catcher in the bullpen moved in front of the plate when Harden got on the mound as he made his throws from about 58 1/2 feet instead of 60 feet, 6 inches.

Still, the A's coaching staff was very pleased with what it saw.

"He threw very well," A's pitching coach Curt Young said. "His velocity looked like it was in the low 90s, throwing free and easy. Basically he was full-speed today."

"From what I heard, Rich looked very, very good," A's manager Bob Geren added.

Harden will play catch on Wednesday, and likely will throw another side session on Thursday. After that, what will happen is undecided.

When asked if Harden would throw a simulated game or go out on a rehab assignment, Geren and Young said it would likely be a simulated game.

"He has to do something against hitters before we bring him back," Geren said.

If it were entirely up to Young, Harden would face hitters in a Class A game.

"Remember, he hasn't faced hitters in two months," Young said.

But the thought is that Harden will not go on assignment and instead rehab by pitching out of the A's bullpen.

Dribblers: Shannon Stewart was unavailable for Tuesday's game with the Astros, suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. "I'd really prefer not to use him," Geren said. It is the same right foot that caused Stewart to miss all but 44 games last season in Minnesota. Stewart played in 49 of the A's first 52 games, but has not been in the starting lineup in seven of the first 11 games in June after Tuesday. ... Injured designated hitter Mike Piazza hit in the cage prior to Tuesday's game and will take batting practice on the field with the rest of the team on Wednesday as he works his way back from a strained right shoulder suffered in Boston on May 2. ... The only update on injured reliever Justin Duchscherer is that he is at home and has not been cleared to throw. When asked if Harden would be rehabbing in the Minors instead of out of the bullpen if Duchscherer and Street were available, Geren said, "No, that has nothing to do with it." ... The A's completed their trade that brought Chris Denorfia from the Reds, sending left-hander Ben Jukich as the player to be named later. He was a 13th-round pick in the 2006 Draft.

Up next: A's righty Joe Blanton (5-4, 3.60) will be on the hill opposite Astros rookie righty Chris Sampson (6-5, 3.36) in Wednesday's game. The first pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PT.