Scott Baker not concerned about elbow, but could start year on DL
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Scott Baker downplayed the severity of his latest bout with elbow tendonitis on Friday, but there's a strong chance he could start the season on the 15-day disabled list.
Pitching coach Rick Anderson said Baker will throw two upcoming bullpen sessions -- one on Saturday and another on Monday -- and if all goes well, he could be reinserted into the spring rotation next Thursday, March 25.
But with Baker's first regular season start scheduled for April 9 at Target Field, time is running out.
Baker threw 43 pitches in a 'B' game on March 10 -- after which he said his elbow "just wasn't recovering" properly.
Anderson said the spring program calls for starting pitchers to increase their pitch counts by 10-25 each outing, eventually ramping up toward 100 pitches by the time the regular season begins.
The Twins aren't ready to map things out too far in advance until Baker gets through bullpen sessions with no elbow troubles. But if he's able to make a start late next week, Baker would likely throw no more than 40-45 pitches. After that, he could make starts on March 30, and then possibly again in the Twins' spring finale on April 4.
Best-case scenario, Baker would be up near 80 pitches by the time the regular season begins.
"If that's what we need to do, that's what we need to do," Baker said Friday when asked about the possibility of starting the season on the disabled list. "I know I would love to make the home opener start, and as far as I know that's still the case. But you've got to do what's smart and wise, and do whatever it takes to get ready for a long season."
The way the schedule plays out, the Twins have an off day after the home opener on April 9, meaning they don't need a fifth starting pitcher until April 15 against the Texas Rangers. Baker could be moved to the back of the rotation, and the extra week would give him more time to ramp up.
The Twins could still DL him in the meantime and bring in extra bullpen help, or an extra bench player.
Baker said the inflammation had subsided on Friday, adding, "it's just a matter of kind of pushing it a little bit and see how it goes. ...
"I've dealt with some type of elbow inflammation my entire career. I mean, I know what's OK and what's not OK. It was just a little more than I was willing to try to push through."
Baker underwent minor elbow clean-up surgery after the 2010 season, but inflammation sidelined him two separate times during what appeared to be a career season in 2011. He said the elbow was "a non-issue" during the entire offseason, and throughout the first two or three weeks of spring workouts.
"It's really tough to try to duplicate what you're going to do in spring training," he said.
"This is the time to take care of it, more so than trying to rush through it. And if I'm at a 100 pitches at the end of spring training. If I'm not, I'm not. But it's a long season, and (backing off) is the right move."
As of right now, the Twins are not concerned -- at least publicly -- that Baker's elbow could turn into something more significant.
"It's tendonitis," Baker said. "I've been there, done that. It's just a matter of getting it taken care of. But if it's not taken care of, it for sure can be a problem if it progresses into something that you definitely don't want to be dealing with."
Baker began the 2009 season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, but he wound up posting a 4.36 ERA over 200 innings.