Scott Baker hadn’t thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues since 2011 before making the start for the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. The team activated him from the 60-day DL earlier in the day, designating infielder Cody Ransom for assignment in order to create space on the 40-man roster.
Baker was once a quietly promising arm with the Minnesota Twins, posting some consistently positive results starting with the 2008 season. He’d average 181.0 IP over the next three seasons, with a 4.11 ERA and 1.235 WHIP. He was never among the top arms in the American League, sometimes not even the best arm on his own team, but Baker was reliable in the middle of the Twins rotation. He start off the 2011 season on a strong note, but his season would be cut short after 21 starts. Baker would undergo Tommy John Surgery. His recovery would keep him out for the entire 2012 season.
Knowing that there was no certainties to his recovery schedule the Cubs elected to sign Baker to a deal (worth a seemingly astounding $5.5 Million) last November.
He’d start the year on the sidelines, re-straining his elbow during his first Spring Training outing. By the time he’d return he’d get in 8 starts in the minor leagues – two at Double-A and six more at Triple-A. Collectively he’d throw 29.2 IP, posting a 5.46 ERA and 1.517 WHIP. His strikeout rates had taken a dip from his pre-surgery success. There was little in his results that screamed “September call-up”, but a large segment of the team’s fanbase had begun to openly wonder if the team should take a look at him late in the year anyways. Some see the need to desire to get a return on their investment while others look ahead to what might be next season (assuming Baker were to re-sign with the team). Dale Sveum had already made it clear that if Baker received a call-up, it was unlikely he’d see any significant playing time.
Baker started against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter, Norichika Aoki, walked before Baker set down the next nine batters. He’d throw five shutout innings, allowing a walk and two hits. Chicago’s bullpen ultimately couldn’t hold on, as the Brewers would win the game 3-1, but Baker looked sharp in his first start in more than two years.
Ransom ultimately was a casualty, as the team needed to create space on the 40-man roster in order to active Baker. He’d seen time with the team at third base, first base, and shortstop but struggled at the plate. Ransom hit just .189/.286/.420 in 193 PA on the year, mostly with the Cubs after the team claimed him off waivers in mid-April from the San Diego Padres. The 37 year old veteran had never been a key piece in the lineup for any team that he’s been a part of and already appeared headed for free agency once again this coming offseason.