Reflecting on elbow issues, Scott Baker says, 'I knew I wasn't crazy'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- For Minnesota Twins right-hander Scott Baker, the past few weeks have been a combination of great disappointment and relief.
Mostly great disappointment, because after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery it's possible he may not ever pitch in a Twins uniform.
And relief, because -- as Baker puts it -- "I knew I wasn't crazy."
"I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen."
Baker was scheduled to undergo surgery on April 17 to repair his right flexor tendon, but Dr. David Altchek gave him a 20% chance of also needing Tommy John surgery.
That one-in-five chance came to fruition when Altchek saw how loose Baker's UCL was.
"There was no definitive tearing or detachment, but he said what he performed was called a pickup," Baker said. "Basically you pick up a pair of tweezers and see how loose the ligament is. And he said it was a black and white issue to him that the ligament was too loose. It was not a good ligament. That's probably, in his opinion, the reason why the tendon was unable to recover."
The "speculation" that Baker was "babying" his elbow stems from spring training. Baker sat out for more than a week in mid-March with inflammation, but when he came back his fastball was still topping out in the mid- to upper-80's.
Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson wanted Baker to cut it loose, provided he was healthy enough to be on the mound.
In retrospect, it's clear now why Baker was unable to ramp up into the 90's, but when asked if there were any hard feelings between he and the coaching staff Baker said, "None whatsoever."
"Nobody knows what's going on," he added. "Nobody knows what's going on until you get in there. I didn't know, doctors don't know. The doctors don't know until they get in there. I mean, they can have an indication from an MRI, but what can you do until you get in there? ...
"To be honest with you, you're not always completely forthright with the staff. I mean, that's any pitcher. I'm the last guy that wants to not be able to pitch, but there is a piece of mind in knowing, 'Gosh, I did everything I could?' What else could I do? ... I knew that I was doing the best I could, so it really didn't matter what anybody else thought. I knew it was time to get it taken care of."
Baker will conduct his rehab at Target Field, but the future remains uncertain. His contract calls for a $9 million team option, which the Twins almost certainly will not pick up.
"I guess right now there's not a whole lot I can do as far as recovery except just kind of wait it out," Baker said. "The first month is very boring, very monotonous. There's not a whole lot you can do. You have to let the new tendon and the new ligament kind of take and set, so I can't work through that. That's something that just has to happen on its own. I know it's a long road ahead, and obviously I'm going to work extremely hard -- as hard as they'll probably allow me.
"As far as contract status, gosh, why worry about it? There's nothing I can do about it. You obviously think about it. I like being here, I like playing for the Twins. I mean, there's no guarantee that I'll throw another pitch for the Twins, but it's kind of all I know."