Rich Harden threw the 26th and last pitch of his latest bullpen session and immediately broke into a broad grin of satisfaction.

There were nods all around Sunday morning, March 24, as Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson gave the rehabbing veteran right-hander a high-five.

"Really good," Anderson told Harden. "Much better."

Before sending Harden off for his conditioning run, Anderson called over to Twins athletic trainer Dave Pruemer with a question.

"David," Anderson said, "what are we going to do with this guy? He's got a new arm."

Nothing is imminent. Let's make that part clear now.

These are all still baby steps for a 31-year-old pitcher who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery on his rotator cuff Jan. 31, 2012. Yet the optimism over Harden's recent progress is starting to shine through.

His goal at the start of spring training was to throw off a bullpen mound by the time the Twins broke camp. He beat that with 10 days to spare. Now, Harden just needs to keep it rolling.

Gradually.

"I'm just looking forward to getting back out there, whenever that is," Harden said.

Would a June 1 return to the majors be a realistic goal?

"I don't know," he said. "I'd love to say that, but I try not to think too far ahead. There could be a lot more ahead of me. I just don't know."