Notebook: Baker not likely to be rushed back; Twins in roster pickle
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Scratched from his scheduled start Monday with lingering discomfort in his strained right elbow, Minnesota Twins right-hander Scott Baker is not likely to return from the disabled list when eligible on Friday.
Instead, the team and Baker have decided to play it safe with perhaps their best starting pitcher so far this season.
"The plan with him is to give him a couple days and throw a bullpen and see how that goes, and decide after that what the next step's going to be," said head athletic trainer Rick McWane, who added that there's a "pretty good" chance Baker would need a rehab start before rejoining the starting rotation.
"Once he's pain-free and the stiffness is at a level where he thinks he can go out there and throw, then we'll have him throw a bullpen."
The Twins were hopeful that some downtime over last week's All-Star break would be enough for Baker to shake the elbow discomfort, which caused him to leave his start on July 5 after only five innings.
Baker received an MRI prior to the All-Star break that showed no significant damage, and McWane said there's still no sense this is a serious injury.
"He threw his bullpen on Friday with no problems," McWane said. "Saturday's the day we were really looking to see how he responded. Saturday he said he felt good. He came in (Sunday) and said he was just a little stiffer than he would have liked to have been, and we all sat down and had a long conversation and I think we all decided it was best in his interest not to push it, give him a couple extra days.
"We had already invested 12 days or whatever it was ... We didn't want to have him go out there and throw and then have to DL him, because then you're talking about another 15 days."
Prior to landing on the disabled list, Baker owned a 3.01 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings.
Twins in potential roster pickle
With a doubleheader Monday and no off days until August, manager Ron Gardenhire made it clear he wanted 13 pitchers to be certain the cupboard didn't empty out, and he got his wish with left-handers Chuck James and Scott Diamond being called up from Triple-A Rochester to replace Baker and infielder Matt Tolbert.
The problem now is that the Twins might not be able to revert back to 12 pitchers for at least a couple days, leaving only three bench position players -- one being a catcher.
Major league rules require players to spend at least 10 days in the minor leagues after being optioned, which means Tolbert must remain with Rochester until July 28. Outfielder Rene Tosoni and catcher Rene Rivera were both optioned on July 10, which means they can't return until Thursday.
Beyond that, the only other available position players on the 40-man roster are first baseman Chris Parmelee and outfielder Joe Benson, who both currently play for Double-A New Britain.
Diamond set to make major league debut
Selected by the Twins in December's Rule-5 draft, Diamond arrived to Minneapolis on Sunday night and spent time Monday morning greeting his teammates.
Filling a hole left by the injured Baker, Diamond will make his major league debut three months after the Twins retained his rights by sending right-hander Billy Bullock to the Atlanta Braves.
"It's pretty exciting," said Diamond, who posted a 4.70 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 30 walks in 92 Triple-A innings this year.
"It was really good, seeing the locker room and seeing all the guys again from spring training is really exciting. So I'm really excited to be back here. I'm just going to try to do my best."
Diamond said he was "a little bit" nervous when he was told he was being called up, "but I'm sure when I get out there in front of the crowd and everything (the nerves) are going to be back up again."
Diamond's numbers at Rochester have not been impressive, but he appears to have settled into a groove over his last two starts, allowing four earned runs on 15 hits and only one walk in 15 innings while striking out 10.
"He's been throwing better, a lot better," Gardenhire said. "He had scuffles early. His biggest thing is repeating his delivery and staying with it mechanically, which is all young kids. As of lately he's been very good, very consistent with his delivery. He's not an overpowering kid, but he can whip it up there around 91 miles per hour with a nice breaking ball so we'll see what happens."
During spring training the Twins were impressed with Diamond's pickoff move, but they wanted him to do a better job managing the running game and being more aggressive in the strike zone.
First baseman Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) began playing catch on Sunday, and he will add more baseball activities to his workouts this week.
The Twins are hopeful Morneau can return to action sometime in August.