Scott Baker could prove valuable in 2014


March 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher

Scott Baker

(32) throws in the first inning during a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been some time since Scott Baker even set foot on a Major League mound.

That being said, the former Twins’ pitcher is aiming for making a Cubs’ debut in the coming weeks. At least, that’s what he has in mind. Chicago skipper Dale Sveum said at this point, there’s no room for Baker in the rotation, and should he earn a call-up, he’ll see bullpen work.

"“If anything right now, if we do activate him here, he’d just be a long guy,” Sveum said. “There’s no plans to have him start or anything, unless there comes a point where we feel somebody needs a five-day break instead of four days. Right now, that’s all wait and see.”"

The 31-year old fits the mold of the signings Chicago has aimed for since Theo Epstein took control two years ago, a low-risk, high-upside arm that could prove to be a valuable asset – either as a trade chip or member of the club – moving forward.

In 2008 with Minnesota, Baker was a top-tier starter, going 1–4 with a 3.45 ERA in 28 starts for the Twins. Since then, his production has diminished.

The question of whether or not Chicago fans will get their first look at Baker should come later today, when rosters are expanded as part of the annual September call-ups. Another question is whether or not Baker has earned a shot over other minor leaguers.

In eight starts split between Class-A Advanced Daytona and Class-A Kane County, Baker is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA. He’s allowed 35 hits in 29 2/3 innings of work, resulting in 18 earned runs and six home runs. He’s also recorded ten walks to sixteen strikeouts.

These numbers don’t exactly scream “big league ready” to the naked eye, and to be honest, there are several other players who are probably more deserving. However, another major factor in the decision is the fact that the organization has three minor league clubs in the postseason – Double-A Tennessee, Class A Daytona and short-season Boise. Epstein and Hoyer are strong proponents of having young players experience playoff pushes, in hopes it well help the players mature as they reach the major league level.

He did, however, post one of his better starts on Monday with Kane County, throwing 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. Most of the damage came early on, as he allowed hits to the first three batters he faced, including a two-run shot. A positive sign for the right-hander was the fact that he did not walk a batter, something that has been a struggle during his rehabilitation process.

Baker has said that the biggest need he has right now is simply the opportunity to continue facing batters. With the Cubs’ season all but over, there is no reason to let him get time in against MLB hitters as the season winds down. It will help Baker and give the Cubs a look at what they may have heading into 2014.