With decision time coming, Cubs hope for good news on Baker

With decision time coming, Cubs hope for good news on Baker
March 23, 2013, 4:15 pm
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MESA, Ariz. – Scott Baker says his surgically reconstructed right elbow feels much better, while admitting that he doesn’t know what that means yet.

The Cubs shut down Baker after an MRI showed enough red flags to require another look from Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, who’s traveling to Arizona this weekend. Sunday’s physical exam will be one week after Baker’s first game in almost 18 months, and team officials won’t put a timetable on his return.

“Obviously, I would love to be able to look at the MRI and tell you what it says, but I have no clue until Doc can sit down there and kind of show me what he’s seeing,” Baker said Saturday at HoHoKam Stadium. “(Until) then, it’s kind of tough to tell and I don’t want to give any false information without knowing exactly what we’re dealing with.”

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The Cubs weighed the risks associated with recovery from Tommy John surgery and gave Baker a one-year, $5.5 million deal last November, as well as the platform to re-establish himself as a major-league starter after not throwing a pitch for the Minnesota Twins in 2012.

When they reported to camp, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer thought the rotation could go seven-deep. That number’s down to five with Matt Garza (strained lat muscle) still about a week away, at least, from throwing off a mound again.

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The Cubs will be exploring all options as players become available during the final days of spring training. They could try to find this year’s Shawn Camp, who was released by the Seattle Mariners late last March and wound up being one of the team’s most reliable players (3.59 ERA in 80 relief appearances).

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There are indications the Cubs are high on Steve Clevenger for the final bench job, and not inclined to sign Bill Hall (Los Angeles Angels) or Chone Figgins (Miami Marlins), two recently released thirty-something players mentioned by a reporter during manager Dale Sveum’s media session.   

“We’re in no panic,” Sveum said. “We got a pretty decent situation as it is. We’re covered at every position.”

Sveum described the “perfect scenario” for that spot as a “left-handed bat that has some versatility that can hit a ball out of the ballpark,” which sounds a lot like Clevenger.

With only five Cactus League games remaining, the truck leaving for Chicago on Wednesday and the Opening Day roster almost set, decision time is coming.

“There are names that are going to come up and there will be more as this week goes on,” Sveum said. “There’s always going to be talk. Me and Theo and Jed and the coaching staff will probably sit down and really look at these names and see what we might need and if it really fits.”