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The Bleacher Bums: July 30, 2008 Archive

Scott Baker: The Reluctant Ace

Posted at 6:01 AM on July 30, 2008 by David Zingler (2 Comments)

After bouncing back-and-forth between Triple A and the big leagues in 2005 and 2006, Scott Baker established himself as a reliable major league starter in 2007 while showing flashes of brilliance.

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The 26-year-old has built on last year's success and become the Twins best pitcher. The humble hurler chatted with me near his locker and in between text messages before last night's game.

DZ: Right now you are pitching well, the team is winning after a bit of a rough spot; talk about how the season's gone so far.

BAKER: I feel like it's going pretty well. Obviously, I am a starting pitcher so I go out there to give us a chance to win. Overall - 1 through 5 - we are all doing that. Hopefully we can continue to do that right until the end.

DZ: Some people are starting to call you the "ace" of the staff, is that something you think about?

BAKER: No...I guess I choose not to think about it, whether it's the case or not. We've got some great pitchers in this rotation and I think it's working out right now. I wouldn't say there's an "ace"...We seem to be feeding off of each other and throwing some quality starts out there.

DZ: It's kind of crazy when you think about last year - you started out in the minors, came up and established yourself after a couple of years going up and down. A year later, people are calling you the "ace". You said you don't put a lot of stock in that stuff, but it's got to be gratifying.

BAKER: I think it's basically come down to me being able to do what I always thought I was capable of doing. It's just the process of keeping things into perspective and trying to get better each day. I've felt like I've done everything I could to accomplish that. It's just one of those things where you take it day by day and do the best you can.

DZ: Conventional wisdom says it's difficult to win when you put four guys (in a rotation) who only have a few years of major league experience between them, how have you guys beat the odds?

BAKER: (pauses) Really, you just have to keep things simple. You can talk about that as much as you want, but what it comes down to is executing pitches. If you are able to do that...no matter what the situation is...it just comes down to us executing pitches and trying to be as efficient as possible and giving our team a chance to win.

DZ: Rick Anderson has had a lot of success here, how much has he helped?

BAKER: He's great. I guess you could say if (the success) was just a freak thing and happened a year or two while he was here, but every year the pitching staff is right up there with the best in the American League...He knows when to approach you and when you need a correction and when just to leave you alone and let things kind of work out on their own. That's not something you really can teach; he just knows how to do it.

DZ: How much different was it coming into this year and not having Johan Santana around.

BAKER: It was a lot different. We knew that if we were to hit a 2 or 3 game skid and it was his turn in the rotation, he was basically our stopper. I think we realized that without him, that was one of the biggest things we had to come up with...not get into that deep of a slump.

Not only that, but his presence: he was a hard worker. He put the time in to be in the position that he's in. He is one of the best all-time pitchers in baseball and he works very hard at it.

DZ: You could probably learn a lot just watching him.

BAKER: Yeah. Obviously, he was left-handed and stuff is unbelievable (laughs). He was a great teammate and had a great work ethic and I think anybody can watch that and take something from that.

(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
June 30th: Brian Bass
June 27th: Brian Buscher
June 18th: Matt Macri
June 6th: Craig Breslow
June 4th: Michael Cuddyer
May 25th: Nick Punto & Mike Redmond
May 20th: Justin Morneau
May 1st: Nick Blackburn
April 29th: Brendan Harris
April 20th: Jason Kubel
April 17th: Denard Span
April 2nd: Matt Tolbert

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Ozzie hearts the Twins

Posted at 12:28 PM on July 30, 2008 by Chris Dall (7 Comments)

Looks like White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is starting take some heat (there's a shocker) for his apparent man-crush on Ron Gardenhire and the Twins.

Ozzie, as you might remember, is the man who came up with the "piranhas" nickname to describe the 2006 Twins, and seems to heap praise on the team whenever he gets the chance. He loves them. He really, really loves them.

It doesn't seem to me that big a deal that a manager would laud the skills of an opponent, but you have to wonder if Guillen is trying to send a not-so-subtle message both to his players and the entire White Sox organization. And if that's the case, and the White Sox just happen to miss out on the playoffs this year, White Sox GM Kenny Williams might have another reason to show Ozzie the door.

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