So what’s the next step for Scott Baker in his recovery from Tommy John surgery?
“That’s a good question,” Baker said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. “I’m here and however they want to let me know what’s going on, I’d be happy to listen.”
The Cubs held out hope Baker could be part of their Opening Day rotation when they signed him to a one-year, $5.5 million deal last November, citing the predictable rehab and the 95-plus percent success rates in Tommy John cases.
But as Baker worked through setbacks and slowly made his recovery, the timeline shifted to maybe the All-Star break or after the July 31 deadline or at least a September audition. So it was surprising to hear manager Dale Sveum say the Cubs have no plans to use Baker as a starter this month and might move him to the bullpen.
“Nobody’s told me either way,” Baker said. “That’s news to me if that’s the case. I understand there are some guys that have come over in trades and there are a lot of guys here with a limited amount of innings to throw.
“I get it. I get why they would say that. Of course, I do want to start, whether that’s here or there or anywhere, because that’s what I’ve always done. I really don’t have a lot of experience doing anything else and I enjoy starting. That is what I want to do.”
Sveum would only say the Cubs are still evaluating Baker’s situation. They promoted right-hander Justin Grimm, lefties Brooks Raley and Zach Rosscup and catcher J.C. Boscan from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday while designating outfielder Dave Sappelt for assignment.
Baker worked into the sixth inning on Monday with Class-A Kane County, allowing two runs on seven hits, giving him a 5.46 ERA through eight rehab starts.
“I’m sure the velocity’s not where I want it yet, but thankfully I know how to pitch a little bit (and) get guys out,” Baker said. “Let’s be realistic: It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched competitively every fifth day. It’s not because of lack of effort. It’s just a timing thing. And the more I do it, the better it’s going to get.”
Baker missed the entire 2012 season but had enough of a track record with the Minnesota Twins (63-48, 4.15 ERA) that both sides had signaled a willingness to do another deal in Chicago.
“That’s a little premature,” Baker said. “If anything, I need to prove I’m capable of pitching in a Major League ballgame. That’s the first and foremost thing that’s at least on my mind. I don’t really have any thought about next year because there’s a lot that needs to happen this year to set up next year.”
Like making a few starts in a Cubs uniform this month.
“I don’t have one negative thing to say about how things have been handled,” Baker said. “They’ve given me every opportunity to get healthy and to be successful. It’s just taken a lot longer than everyone anticipated. It stinks, but it is what it is.”