Tag:Scott Baker
Posted on: May 16, 2011 4:13 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 10:12 pm

On Deck: Something's gotta give


By Matt Snyder

In a stat that may only interest me, Monday night features six games pitting teams against each other that have either won or lost at least two games, meaning even modest "streaks" are going to be broken. The Padres-Diamondbacks, for example, isn't overly exciting just because both teams have won two straight games. The Phillies-Cardinals game (Phils have dropped two straight, the Cardinals three) is a nice match, but not because of the modest losing streaks. The Yankees (lost five straight) and Rays (lost two straight) is a big series because they're the top two teams in the very tight AL East. There are, however, two pretty extreme "something's gotta give" examples -- one on each end of the spectrum.

STREAK-BREAKERS, WINNING EDITION: The Blue Jays have won five in a row. The only team with a longer current winning streak is the Tigers, their foe Monday night in Detroit. The Tigers bring in a seven-game winning streak that has brought them to within 3 1/2 games of the surprising Indians, who sport the best record in baseball. Taking the hill for the Tigers is Max Scherzer, who is 6-0 with a 3.20 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings thus far in 2011. He'll have the task of dealing with the hot-swinging Blue Jays' lineup, specifically Jose Bautista. Bautista is pretty clearly the best hitter in baseball right now, and it's not even close. He leads the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, walks and home runs. His .368 batting average is tops in the AL and his 284 OPS-plus is insane. His three-homer game Sunday was yet another exclamation point. Toronto at Detroit, WATCH LIVE SCORING.

STREAK-BREAKERS, LOSING EDITION: The Mariners have lost six games in a row. Fortunately for them, they don't have the longest streak of futility in the majors at present, because the Twins have lost eight straight. Late Monday night, the two last-place teams will square off in Safeco Field, and the good news is someone has to win. Surprisingly enough, it's actually a good pitching matchup. Scott Baker (2-2, 3.71) was roughed up last time out, but had a 1.59 ERA in his previous four starts and is striking out batters at a pretty high rate. Michael Pineda (4-2, 2.84) has been much better, though. He's struck out 45 in his 44 1/3 innings as a rookie and looks every bit the future ace he was projected to be. Considering the two offenses are the lowest scoring in the AL, this one could be a quickie. Minnesota at Seattle, WATCH LIVE SCORING.

UNDERRATED PITCHING MATCHUP: At first glance, Carlos Zambrano vs. Homer Bailey isn't an elite duel. Bailey (2-0, 0.69) brings in a hot start and is still young enough to be reaching a ceiling many thought was that of a top-of-the-line ace earlier in his development. Zambrano (4-1, 4.35) is actually 4-0 on the road this season and has a really good track record against the Reds and in Great American Ball Park. He owns Scott Rolen (.229 OBP in 48 plate appearances) and has had good success against Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Zambrano's career line at GABP is 9-2 with a 2.90 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 87 innings. Oh, he also has three home runs and an. 804 OPS in 39 career plate appearances at GABP. Chicago (NL) at Cincinnati, WATCH LIVE SCORING.

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:16 am
Edited on: April 4, 2011 12:01 pm

Three with shot at history

Ian KinslerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There are only six games on tonight's baseball slate, but that doesn't mean there aren't high stakes.

Two games will feature a total of three players looking to tie an MLB record. Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Mark Teixeira have all homered in each of their first three games of the season, becoming three of 26 players to achieve the feat. Only two men -- Mark McGwire in 1998 and Willie Mays in 1971 -- homered in each of the first four games of the season.

Teixeira and the Yankees host the Twins at 7:05 p.m. EST. Scott Baker is on the mound and that's good news for Teixeira, who has hit .462/.462/.769 in 13 plate appearances against the right-hander Baker. Teixeira has one homer and a double off of Baker.

Kinsler and Cruz are the first pair of teammates to notch homers in the first three games of the season and will be facing the Mariners' Erik Bedard at 8:05 p.m. EST at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Kinsler hasn't hit a homer off of Bedard in 20 career plate appearances, but does have a double and is hitting .350/.350/.400 against the lefty Bedard. Cruz has a homer and a double in eight plate appearances against Bedard, with a .375/.375/.875 slash line.

Bedard is making his first start in nearly two years. He hasn't pitched since July 25, 2009, missing all of last season with a shoulder injury.

H/T to Baseball Reference blog.

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Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 12:59 pm

With Blackburn in is Slowey out?

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With Nick Blackburn in the Twins' rotation, so Kevin Slowey may be out -- not just out of the rotation, but out of Minnesota.

Blackburn has been told by manager Ron Gardenhire that he's earned a spot in the rotation, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, leaving Slowey and Scott Baker to compete for the fifth spot. Gardenhire said he'd like to add top prospect Kyle Gibson to that list, but doesn't believe the front office will let him.

Kevin SloweyAccording to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Twins are open to offers for Slowey (pictured). Slowey, 26, was 13-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 starts (and two relief appearances last season. Slowey is making $2.7 million this season and has two more years of arbitration remaining and is 39-21 with a 4.41 ERA in his four years in the big leagues.

Slowey has made two starts this spring, allowing four hits and three runs in five innings. On Friday, Slowey threw three scoreless innings. 

Baker, 29, had arthroscopic elbow surgery in October and is scheduled to make his second spring appearance on Monday.  He gave up two hits and a run in 1 2/3 innings in his first outing. Baker is in the third year of a four-year, $15.25 million deal, with a team option for 2013. Last season he was 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA and he's one at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. He's 55-42 with a 4.32 ERA in his six seasons with the Twins.

Slowey's age and contract situation make him more attractive to other teams.

Gibson has made two outings this spring, giving up three hits and two runs in two innings. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched at three levels last season, going 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA, with the bulk of his work (16 of 26 starts) coming at Double-A, where he was 7-5 with a 3.68. He made three Triple-A starts, going 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA there.

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:56 pm

Twins' rotation rounding into shape

By Matt Snyder

Nick Blackburn will be in the starting rotation for the Twins this season, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday (Minneapolis Star-Tribune ), meaning Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are in a head-to-head battle for the fifth and final spot. The news came after Blackburn threw three perfect innings against the Rays.

Wednesday, Brian Duensing was given a spot by Gardenhire, making him the third member of the rotation behind ace Francisco Liriano and re-signed Carl Pavano.

Blackburn went 10-12 with a 5.42 ERA last season in 161 innings, but had offseason surgery to clean up his elbow. He's looked sharp in the spring, especially with his sinker.

Duensing went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA last season. He closed in the rotation, starting 13 of his last 14 appearances after he joined the rotation. As a starter, he was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA. His 85 2/3 innings meant he averaged about 6 2/3 innings per start, and that was after coming out of the bullpen for the first part of the season.

The Baker vs. Slowey battle shows just how deep the Twins are with starting pitching. Baker is just two seasons removed from an 11-4, 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP campaign. Last season, he battled inconsistency -- and minor health issues -- to a 12-9 mark with a 4.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Slowey is one year removed from a season where he went 10-3, but his ERA was 48.6 and WHIP was 1.41. He was 13-6 last year with a 4.45 ERA, but has had issues getting knocked around, as he's allowed 10 hits per nine innings throughout his career. His control is solid, though, as he only walked 29 guys in 155 2/3 innings last year.

Baker was 5-0 in his last 10 starts last season and, like Blackburn, underwent a procedure to clean up his throwing elbow in the offseason.

Baker has a slightly better track record than Slowey, but that doesn't always decide the winner in spring training battles. Either way, the Twins have six legitimate major-league starting pitchers. Many teams would surely trade places.

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Posted on: February 10, 2011 9:48 am

Twins considering trading Liriano

Francisco Liriano Because, I guess, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra have worked out so well for the Twins, the team is apparently open to dealing ace Francisco Liriano, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes .

Liriano, 27, is a free agent after the 2012 season and the team doesn't appear interested in signing him to a long-term deal, Christensen writes. The two sides avoid arbitration last week, but Liriano's side was looking for a three-year, $39 million contract.

Last season, Liriano was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 201 in 191 2/3 innings. He was also second in the majors in xFIP at 3.06, behind Roy Halladay. Liriano has a history of arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2006.

In 2008, the Twins had a left-handed ace they couldn't sign in the last year of his contract in Johan Santana, receiving just the aforementioned Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra in return for the left-hander from the Mets. The thought with Liriano is that they can receive more with more time left under team control.

The Twins have five other starters -- Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey -- and their top prospect, Kyle Gibson, is a starter, so they see Liriano as replaceable and attractive to a team like the Yankees, who are looking to fill their rotation.

However, the Twins need Liriano to help compete in the AL Central and dealing him now doesn't help the team in pursuit of its first postseason series victory since 2002. None of their other five big-leaguers have the stuff Liriano does or the ability to dominate like he can.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: January 24, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:57 am

Twins must sort out starters

Brian Duensing
With the return of Carl Pavano, the Twins are faced with a problem any team would like to have: too many proven starting pitchers.

Minnesota heads into spring training with six pitchers who each won at least 10 games last season: Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing. All but one had both a winning record and an ERA under 4.50 (Blackburn, at 10-12, 5.42).

So who goes to the bullpen? That's not a decision the Twins have to make just yet, and might not have to make at all, because there are some unknowns. Blackburn and Baker both had arthroscopic elbow surgery after the season, and though both are projected to be fully ready to start spring training, there's always the possibility of a setback. Slowey also dealt with some injuries last season.

But if all six are good to go on opening day, who's the odd man out of the rotation? Duensing (pictured) has the most relief experience, making 40 appearances out of the bullpen last season, but the Twins liked what they saw from him down the stretch as a starter, when he went 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA. He also gives them a second left-hander to go with Liriano. Blackburn was the statistical weak link last season, but advanced stats (for example, a 4.62 xFIP) show he might have been better than his record, and should be due for a bounceback. Slowey's 39-21 record as a starter is going to buy him the benefit of the doubt.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he's not complaining about his "problem."

“Hopefully they all stay healthy, and it’s a tough decision,” Anderson said.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: October 19, 2010 5:52 pm

Blackburn, Baker having arthroscopic surgery

Nick Blackburn Arthroscopic surgery seems to be popular in Minnesota these days.

Right fielder-turned-first baseman Michael Cuddyer underwent arthroscopic knee surgery once the season concluded, while starting pitcher Nick Blackburn had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last Wednesday.

Now, Scott Baker is joining in on the fun with his own right-elbow arthroscopic surgery scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday as the Star Tribune reports.

"I've been dealing with it over the last couple years," Blackburn (pictured) said of his elbow injury that saw him finish with a 5.42 ERA in 161 innings, garnering a demotion to the minors at one point. "I think most pitchers in baseball have some stuff they're dealing with. We just decided to get it taken care of now."

Blackburn had a bone spur and other loose particles removed by team doctors, with no damage to ligaments.

"They just poked a couple holes in there and cleaned that stuff out," Blackburn said. "I've already got the same range of motion that I had before the surgery."

Meanwhile, Baker, who finished with a 4.49 ERA in 29 starts, will undergo surgery at the hands of Dr. David Altchek, the Mets physician who also operated on closer Joe Nathan's season-ending elbow surgery in spring training.

Blackburn, Baker and Nathan are all expected to be ready for spring training.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: September 18, 2010 6:51 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 6:58 pm

Scott Baker unlikely to re-enter rotation

Scott Baker No. 1 starter to spot starter.

Quite the fall for Scott Baker, who was coming off a 15-9 season and 4.37 ERA, pitching an even 200 innings over 33 starters.

Baker opened the season atop the Twins' rotation, but general ineffectiveness and the emergence of Francisco Liriano bumped Baker down a few pegs. In 27 starts, Baker has a 4.60 ERA although his 4.04 xFIP suggests he has pitched far better than indicated.

Baker went down on September 2 with elbow tendinitis, and manager Ron Gardenhire is unsure how to work him back in the rotation, reports 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio .

"We're kicking a lot of different things around for the rotation, so [we're] trying to make sure we get guys extra days if we can," Gardenhire said about lining up the rotation for the rest of September. Having already pitched a bullpen session, the righty is due for another Saturday that will determine how soon Baker can get back into the rotation.

However, any return to the rotation would be simply to get the current five extra rest.

"Baker would be an option, if we wanted to give people extra days, to put him back in the rotation if he feels great, and give an extra day to other guys, which is really important this time of year with all of the innings adding up," Gardenhire noted.

It seems as if Baker isn't in the Twins' October plans, so Minnesota figures to go with Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing as the front four. Baker could appear out of the bullpen as long as his injuries are behind him.

-- Evan Brunell

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