GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rich Harden's return to the mound was delayed yet again on Monday, when manager Bob Geren announced that the righty was expected to see a doctor in the morning.

Harden was tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session -- his first since Feb. 15 -- on Tuesday, but the injury-prone hurler developed soreness in his lat muscle while throwing long toss on Sunday. It's the same discomfort that sidelined Harden a month ago, though not of the same degree, Geren said.

The news came just two days after the A's skipper admitted Harden wouldn't be ready to join the rotation by Opening Day. He entered camp as a favorite to win the fifth-starter spot.

Harden has seemingly never had health on his side, as evidenced by a career that has been hampered by a rash of injuries. Since going 11-7 with a 3.99 ERA in 31 starts during the 2004 season, he has made at least 20 starts in just two of the six seasons that have followed, and has endured nine disabled-list stints -- six of them coming in Oakland -- throughout his career.

Braden happy with approach despite numbers

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Five days ago, A's lefty Dallas Braden was seen clinging to his fastball against the Rangers.

On Monday, while facing the Indians for his fourth spring appearance, he didn't have to -- not with his slider back in action.

"My slider was the best pitch today," Braden said. "I felt good about that. It's definitely made strides. I threw it for strikes, with swings and misses."

Still, the southpaw was tagged for six runs -- four earned -- on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in four innings of work. Braden has allowed 12 earned runs, 20 hits and four walks in 10 2/3 Cactus League innings. The numbers don't necessarily scream success, but Braden's finding just that in his game plan.

"The game plan this spring has been to refine the breaking ball, and if you talk about the last outing and compare it to this outing, you can see the difference," he said. "No hits with it, there were swings and misses, and there were strikes all over."

Braden, still drawing differences from his last performance, said his start against the Rangers included a curveball -- for all of three minutes. He said, up to that point, he had never thrown a traditional curveball in a game setting, but was willing to give it a try to expand his repertoire. He simply never got a good feel for it, though.

"Anytime anyone in any organization is going to give me an idea of how I can potentially get better, I'm all ears," he said. "I've always believed there's no such thing as bad advice. There's just advice that's better than other advice."

Braden will continue to direct his focus toward refining the slider, which he used early and often on Monday. He's scheduled to make his next start Saturday at home against the White Sox.

Worth noting

Craig Breslow (hamstring) threw a bullpen on Monday, and could potentially pitch in a game setting on Wednesday. The A's have an off-day, but the lefty could go in a controlled environment -- possibly a simulated game -- before making his way into Cactus League action for the first time. ... Cliff Pennington will officially be cleared to bat right-handed in games beginning on Tuesday. That leaves the A's shortstop, coming back from left shoulder surgery, plenty time to ease back into action from that side before the season starts. ... Chris Carter collected his first two homers of the spring on Monday. His first, a monster shot off the left-field scoreboard, had Geren saying, "I don't think it could have been hit harder."