Scott Baker may have made his last pitch as a Twin.
The righthander will undergo surgery to repair his flexor pronator tendon. It is an injury that will sideline him for all of 2012. The Twins have a contract option for 2013 for Baker, but it is suddenly unlikely that they’ll pick it up, given the fact that Baker’s health and effectiveness will be highly uncertain after a year out of baseball. Thus, the once-promising pitcher may never pitch for the Twins again.
This is the latest piece of terrible news in an April that has been filled with disappointments for the Twins. The team has stumbled to an 0-4 start in part because Baker and Jason Marquis have been unavailable in the rotation. The team had been counting on Baker as a linchpin of the pitching staff along with Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano. His latest injury is a disturbing sign that the Twins might not be able to rebound from a terrible 2011 season and that they will need to drastically revamp the starting rotation.
As recently as the All Star Break last year, Baker seemed to be emerging as a top tier starting pitcher. His 3.14 ERA in 2011 was by far the best among Twins starters, and he struck out a career-high 8.2 batters per nine innings. Prior to 2011, Baker had compiled at least 170 innings pitched, 11 wins, and 140 strikeouts in each of the previous three seasons.
Baker hurt his elbow last July but was able to return in September for a pair or relief outings. He reported to Spring Training healthy enough to pitch, but he soon encountered soreness. His velocity and effectiveness were also impaired, and he stayed behind when the rest of the Twins broke camp. In his first minor league rehab start, Baker lasted just a third of an inning before leaving due to injury. Until recently, there was little indication that this injury would cause him to miss more than a few starts. The latest news is as unexpected as it is catastrophic.
Puckett’s Pond named Baker one of the “Ferocious Five,” the five players at the heart of the Twins’ roster who needed to be succesful in order for the team to return to contention. For the rest of the season, the Twins will have to make do with the Ferocious Four of Francisco Liriano, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Denard Span.
It also places pressure on Liam Hendriks. The young Australian starter was destined to spend 2012 at AAA before Marquis and Baker became unavailable at the beginning of the season. Unless the Twins make a trade or another roster move, Hendriks could very well find himself in the Twins’ starting rotation. If Hendriks does not get that shot, Anthony Swarzak may be next in line.