SEATTLE -- If there's one thing Rich Harden has learned this season, it's the virtue of patience. No matter how hard he works out and rehabs his ailing right shoulder, his body heals at its own pace.

Harden, on the disabled list since July 12, joined the team here after more than a week visiting his friends and family in his home in Victoria, British Columbia. He has been working on getting his shoulder back to a competitive level, but has no timetable for when that will be.

"That's one of the problems you run into," Harden said. "You set certain dates and times when you're going to be back on the mound, when you'll be pitching in a game," Harden said. "That puts that much more pressure on a player because it means that basically, if you don't make it by that date, something's wrong."

His desire to set dates and work off a timetable may have factored into his current predicament. He first went on the DL with his shoulder impingement on April 16 and missed 58 games. He returned June 21 and appeared in seven games, just 25 2/3 innings, before returning to the DL.

"It was pretty much a group decision," he said. "They gave me the option to come out of the bullpen. Of course, that gets me out there a little quicker. It seemed like a great idea. My rehab was going good. I was throwing good. This was my next step. [But] it might have been too soon. It might have been better to take a couple more weeks and come back into the rotation."

Now, his status for the rest of the season is uncertain. He could be back next month or next year. But what he now understands is that no matter how soon he wants to return, he needs to make sure his shoulder is sound and stable.

"It's not surgical," he said. "But if it's not taken care of, you can do a lot of damage. If I handle it correctly, it won't be an issue.

"It's, unfortunately, where I'm at right now, but I just have to take it slow and work my way back. That's the hard part. You want to be out there. You want to be part of the team, and help the guys out. It's tough to just sit in the dugout watching."

Manager Bob Geren met with Harden a couple hours before Friday's game to assess his mental and physical state.

"He thinks things have been positive the past 10 days," Geren said. "He's feeling stronger. He's optimistic about pitching this year and carrying his program into the offseason. He came out sounding real good."

Chavez back on bench: Third baseman Eric Chavez, struggling with a sore back, was held in reserve Friday after starting Thursday's game.

"Eric's sore," Geren said. "Officially, he's day-to-day. But it's probably going to be another two- or three-day type stint."

He said that if needed, he would use Chavez as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.

"I want to give him some time off," Geren said, "I don't have to."

Loaiza's way back: Esteban Loaiza, who has not pitched in a big-league game this season, took a step toward that possibility Friday. He worked four innings, and allowed three hits, in a simulated game in Arizona.

"They felt his first two innings were average," Geren said. "That's when he gave up his hits. His last two innings, he was pretty sharp. He seemed to pick up his velocity each inning."

Loaiza began the season on the disabled list with spasms in his shoulder. It was later discovered that he had knee damage. He had surgery to repair his right knee meniscus in late May.

This was his second simulated game. He is now expected to be dispatched to a Minor League affiliate on a rehab assignment.

A's log: Nothing has changed at the back end of the A's bullpen. Alan Embree is still the designated closer despite erstwhile closer Huston Street finishing Thursday's 6-2 victory. Street is still recovering from his two-month stay on the disabled list (right elbow ulnar nerve). He has thrown only two innings since. He would not have pitched Thursday had Nick Swisher not hit a three-run home run in the ninth. "I told [pitching coach Curt Young], 'If Swisher hits a homer here, I've got to go with Street,'" Geren said. That's exactly what happened. Street allowed one hit in the ninth before getting out of it. Geren added, "He looked right there. He looked close to where he was." ... Donnie Murphy likely will have more time on the field with Chavez's back issues and the injury to shortstop Bobby Crosby (fractured hand). He started at short Friday. "Unfortunately, there are injuries, but it gives another guy a chance," Geren said. "Murphy had a nice spring for us. He did very well at Sacramento. I like what he did in Anaheim. I'm looking forward to seeing him play."

On deck: The A's and Mariners turn around quickly with a 1:05 p.m. PT start Saturday in the third game of the four-game series. Right-hander Chad Gaudin (8-5, 3.66 ERA) will be opposed by left-hander Horacio Ramirez (5-3, 6.75 ERA).