Posted at 4:55 PM on October 1, 2005
by David Zingler
Although the anemic offense is mostly to blame for the Twins one-year descent from first to third in the AL Central, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the some of the starting pitchers, Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays in particular, have also been disappointments (because Ron Gardenhire always lets Brad Radke off the hook, I will too). Neither is expected to be back in 2006, which means up to two spots in the starting rotation could be available.
The good news is, it shouldn’t be too difficult or costly in to fill them. While Francisco Liriano may be on the lips of every fan that has cared to watch this season end, another prospect may be more prepared to step in.
“Without a doubt,” right-hander Scott Baker responded when asked if he plans on being in the rotation in 2006. “You get and little taste of it up here and (find out) it’s the only place to be. I feel good about this season…first and foremost I wanted to help the team win, but I also knew that this was a chance to try to solidify a spot in the rotation (next year).”
A 2nd round draft pick out of Oklahoma State in 2003, Baker went 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA in his first two pro seasons. One of the final roster cuts this spring, the 24-year-old began his season at Triple A Rochester but soon became the Twins emergency pitcher.
“The first time I was called up (in May during Juan Rincon’s steroid suspension), I just made one relief appearance,” Baker said of his whirlwind season. “The second time I started in Anaheim, then I got called up again to start the second game of a double header in Detroit and then I got called up a couple of days before September.”
While some young players might have trouble adjusting to the constantly changing scenery, the levelheaded Baker took it in stride, “When you are filling in for one of these guys, you just want to leave a good impression,” the Louisiana native explained. “That’s what the situation is, and that’s OK -- it part of (the game). I think everybody, at some point of their career, goes through that.”
While his numbers -- 3.01 ERA and 107 strikeouts against just 26 walks at Rochester and a 3.78 ERA with the Twins -- are impressive, they haven’t translated into many personal victories. Baker went just 5-8 for the Redwings and is 2-3 entering Saturday’s start in the majors.
The right-hander, however, has managed to keep the low win total in perspective, “You want to go out there and help your team stay in the game,” the rookie hurler commented. “If you are able to do that, you feel good about that. As long as (the team) comes out with a win after the game -- that’s all that matters.”
While pleased with this season’s results, Baker realizes he has much left to prove. “You always have something to work on…it’s just a matter of improving a little bit of everything,” he pointed out. “That’s what I want to try to do -- locate my fastball a little bit better, get ahead of hitters a little bit better. Just because you are able to do it in the minor leagues doesn’t mean you are going to do it up here. It’s a game of adjustments, and if you are able to make adjustments quickly, you are going to be fine.”