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Although Rich Harden has said he’d like to return to the Chicago Cubs next year, the Cubs appear to have other plans.

“We’ll see what happens,” [Harden] said. “Hopefully we’ll sit down with Jim (Hendry) and talk about that. It’s a good city, good fans, good team … I feel like what we did this year obviously was a little disappointing. It would be good to come back next year and make a run for it.”

But the Cubs have no plans of bringing Harden back, as manager Lou Piniella hinted Sunday before a 5-1 loss to San Francisco in the final road game of the season.

“You look at our starting pitching here for next year,” Piniella said. “You’ve got (Carlos) Zambrano, you’ve got (Ryan) Dempster, you’ve got (Randy) Wells, you’ve got (Ted) Lilly, you’ve got (Tom) Gorzelanny, and you’ve got (Jeff) Samardzija, who is going to go to winter ball. And if this kid keeps improving, he’ll be right in the mix. So we’ve got six nice arms.” chicagotribune.com.

Now, this could of course just have been a senior moment by Piniella. And it does seem passing strange that Piniella would know that the Cubs definitely won’t be bringing Harden back even before the new ownership is in place.

Still, it was always highly unlikely that the Cubs would sign Harden to the kind of multiyear deal another team will give him given his injury history and the Cubs’ current commitments. It cannot inspire confidence, however, to know that the Cubs will be relying on a youngster in at least two of the five rotation spots next year.

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