By Nate Barnes
Contributor to CSNChicago.com
Scott Baker's future in Chicago will remain unclear until this winter, but in the meantime he's trying to make the most of the opportunities he has to pitch in 2013.
"I’m not really looking at next year," Baker said. "I’m getting to do something that I enjoy and I think those types of things, if all goes well, kind of take care of themselves."
Saturday at PNC Park, Baker took care of business himself. He held the Pittsburgh Pirates to just one run on three hits in six innings, keeping the Pirates off-balance in the batter's box for nearly every one of his 75 pitches.
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Baker returned to the mound last Sunday in Milwaukee, roughly 17 months after he underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2012, and tossed five innings of shutout baseball against the Brewers.
Saturday, Baker also made improvements from his first start to his second in the eyes of Chicago manager Dale Sveum.
"He threw the ball really well again. Velocity was a tad better than the last time, once again he’s just got that live fastball, even though he gets foul balls, pop-ups, even when he has his best stuff that’s how he pitches," Sveum said. "He didn’t give up a lot of hard contact either, it was good. He pitched a great game."
The one spot of hard contact came in the sixth inning, when Baker made his only mistake of the day. With Jose Tabata at the plate, Baker left his first pitch to Tabata just a bit over the middle and Tabata took it to the bullpen in left-center field to tie the game, 1-1.
Beyond that, though, the Pirates struggled all night to make solid contact on Baker.
"He was pounding the zone with strikes, so it was hard to be patient," Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "He’s coming off surgery and he’s not 100 percent but he was still able to pitch well. He did an amazing job."
For Baker, a part of his ability to keep Pittsburgh from taking big swings had a little to do with the fact that the Pirates had never faced him before.
"They haven’t seen me, obviously this year, so I think there’s a level of deception there that might not be there if I faced them four or five times throughout the year," Baker said. "I think you have to use that to your advantage."
Baker did, and posted a quality start despite not having his best stuff as he continues his journey back from Tommy John surgery.
"I kind of live and die by throwing the ball over the plate and right now, do I have my best stuff? No, so I have to pitch really good," Baker said. "But at the same time it’s about getting ahead of guys and making good two-strike pitches."