SAN DIEGO -- Scott Baker has become something of a forgotten man with the Cubs.
Considering he hasn't pitched one inning at the big-league level, some fail to remember he signed a 1-year, $5.5 million deal last winter.
Baker is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and hasn't pitched in the majors since late 2011. The Cubs hoped he would be ready to go early in the 2013 campaign, but it hasn't worked out that way.
After a couple setbacks, the 31-year-old righty has made six rehab starts between Low-A Kane County and High-A Daytona, but the Cubs still expect him to have an impact this year.
"He's had some setbacks, of course, but he's such a good worker and he's so dedicated to coming back this year," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I'm impressed with watching him work. We're hopeful he comes back and helps us."
Baker carries with him a pedigree that includes 159 starts over seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, where he sported a 4.15 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He was exactly the kind of buy-low candidate this front office was looking for last winter.
The Cubs already cashed in on another such pitcher -- Scott Feldman -- who showcased his stuff and turned his opportunity into a spot in the rotation of the contending Baltimore Orioles.
Baker started for Kane County Friday and went four innings, allowing four hits and a run. He has yet to pitch into the fifth in any rehab start, but the Cubs hope he can rejoin the rotation sometime late this season.
"It was a solid outing," Hoyer said. "He's still working his way back and gaining a little bit of velocity and obviously gaining a little bit better feel as he goes. It's still a process for him.
"He's still getting used to being on the mound, but hopefully yesterday was a step in the right direction ... As he gets more comfortable on the mound, I think you'll see the velocity and the crispness of the pitches get better. That's what we're hoping for."
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But with just over five weeks left in the season, how much time is there really left for Baker to pitch?
"It does get a little more complicated as the season draws to a close, but there's probably some way we could get around that a little bit," Hoyer said. "Maybe some long simulated games or something. Our hope is certainly that he can make it back."
Neither Hoyer nor manager Dale Sveum would get into the logistics of where Baker would fit in the rotation when he does return. The Cubs already have five quality starters -- rotation mainstays Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood; $52 million man Edwin Jackson; and a pair of kids getting an extended look in 27-year-old Jake Arrieta and 26-year-old Chris Rusin.
Though, no matter what happens the rest of this year, reports indicate mutual interest between both Baker and the Cubs on a deal for 2014.