03/06/12 5:45 PM ET
Confident Baker feels he's past elbow issues
Right-hander made some minor tweaks to offseason regimen
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
He had bone spurs removed from his right elbow during that offseason, and had trouble throwing his changeup throughout Spring Training.
But Baker now says he's confident that those elbow problems are a thing of the past, as he said he's fully healthy this spring.
He looked sharp against the Rays on Tuesday in his Grapefruit League debut, tossing two hitless innings. He threw 23 pitches -- 15 for strikes -- while recording five flyouts, one groundout and walking one.
"I'm just going about my business," Baker said. "I obviously make sure that I do all the preventative stuff. So maybe I do a little more than I have in the past, but that's not a bad thing. That's actually a good thing. So you just do the best you can. There's peace in the fact I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy."
Baker saw his health fail him in the second half of last season, considering elbow issues forced him to land on the disabled list twice.
He tossed just 24 innings after the All-Star break, including three in relief at the end of the season in an attempt to end the year healthy and off the DL.
As a result, Baker made a few minor tweaks to the way he prepared this offseason, with the goal to stay healthy this year.
"I think you do the best you can," Baker said. "You take precautions, obviously. There's peace in the fact that you do everything you can to prepare and to prevent injuries. But they do happen. So, you know, that's what I did. I did the best I could to the best of my knowledge. So here we are, and so far so good."
When healthy, Baker proved to be a solid starter last year, posting a 3.14 ERA with a team-high 123 strikeouts.
He said he's matured as a pitcher, and has learned to make better in-game adjustments. He even put those adjustments to use in his start against the Rays on Tuesday, when he tried to induce fly balls because the wind was blowing in from the outfield.
"I threw just a few offspeed pitches," Baker said. "Obviously, everybody's seen out there that the wind was blowing 100 miles an hour. I don't care if it's Spring Training or not. When you're working on things, you'd be crazy not to take advantage of that. Throw it over. In situations like [when] you've got two strikes, why would you try to throw a breaking ball and let a guy get a bloop hit instead of throwing a fastball up and potentially [having him pop] it up. There's just not a lot he can do other than pop it up. So it's just things like that. For the most part, I got the work in, felt good and I'm happy with it."
Baker also got a chance to work with catcher Ryan Doumit for the first time in a Spring Training game.
Doumit was signed to a one-year, $3 million deal by the Twins this offseason to catch, serve as designated hitter and play in both corner outfield spots. He's expected to spend most of his time as a DH, but will make an occasional start behind the plate when Joe Mauer needs a rest.
"He does a nice job back there," Baker said. "Obviously, it's a small sample size. But he's caught a couple bullpens of mine, and he's usually the first one to come up to you and talk to you and find out what you want to do as a pitcher. And you respect that, you appreciate that. There's not much more you can ask for."
So while Baker was pleased by the results in his first Grapefruit League game, he added that he's also working on getting a feel for his pitches on the mound. And sometimes that means he's working on things he normally wouldn't during the regular season.
"I'd say 50-50," said Baker, when asked if he's results orientated in the spring. "Even in the 'B' game [last week], I felt like there [were] pitches you normally would just not throw in certain situations, but you need to get some work in. And that's going to happen throughout the spring. Obviously, when you get closer to the season, it'll become more of a true game situation -- instead of just working things in. You're trying to get outs, but you're doing it in a way that's preparing you for the season."