Surprise! Another Injury!
Scott Baker‘s has been exceptional on the mound in recent weeks. On Tuesday nigbht he notched his team-leading seventh victory and lowered his ERA to 3.01. The recent run of good fortune has earned Baker quite a bit of acclaim and caused many to wonder if he might be the ace the Twins were looking for all along.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Twins in 2011 that Baker exited tonight’s game with an elbow injury.
It seems that any player who shows the smallest flash of talent has suffered an injury this year. Denard Span and Jason Kubel were among the most consistent hitters in the lineup a month ago, but neither has played since. Veteran stars Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, and Joe Nathan have all served long stints on the Disabled List. They have been joined by key role players Jason Repko, Kevin Slowey, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Glen Perkins, and Francisco Liriano.
It’s enough to make you think that there’s some sort of conspiracy. Honestly, if I were Michael Cuddyer or Danny Valencia right now, I’d lock myself in my house and not come out until the season ends!
Officially, the Twins are saying that Baker has a mild elbow strain. On its face, this doesn’t sound incredibly serious. Baker is scheduled to pitch next on Sunday, but with the All Star break coming right afterward, it would be easy for the team to postpone his start without him missing too many games. If the strain isn’t too serious, he could pitch in the first series after the break. But that’s the optimistic outlook.
You will forgive me for fearing that this injury might resemble the other injuries the Twins have suffered this year. Part of me is pretty sure that the Twins will spend at least a week denying that the injury is serious and insisting that Baker will be back any day. They’ll play shorthanded during that time, but they’ll eventually place Baker on the DL and call up a starter from Rochester. After Baker is on the DL for a couple weeks, they’ll make noises about a rehab assignment, only to tell us about a setback a few days later. That’s the pessimistic outlook, but it’s a story we’ve heard all too often with the Twins this year (Remember Jason Kubel and Denard Span?).
On the bright side, the Twins still managed to eke out another victory tonight against a very good team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Baker got the win after pitching five innings and allowing just a single unearned run. After that, the Twins’ bullpen came together for one of its best performances of the year. Phil Dumatrait, Alex Burnett, and Nathan all logged scorless innings in relief. The only snag came in the ninth. Matt Capps gave an encore performance of his Blown Save impression by surrendering a homer to BJ Upton and allowing a single and a walk before Glen Perkins bailed him out again. No harm was done – except, perhaps, to Capps’ increasingly shaky grasp on his job. But that’s a different story.
As for Baker, I really do hope that this injury will turn out to be minor. And until says otherwise, it’s probably best to assume that it is. The Twins would be well-advised to skip his turn in the rotation on Sunday and let him use the All Star Break to get healthy. After the break, they have three consecutive four game series against division opponents: Kansas City, Cleveland, and Detroit. They’ll need Baker to be at peak condition against those teams.