Baker's return not great, but he did it

PHOENIX -- Taking baby steps.

That’s what Chicago Cubs pitcher Scott Baker is doing as his spring training essentially started on Sunday when he threw competitively for the first time since spring a year ago.

“Results are one thing, but getting back out there and pitching in front of fans is something I hadn’t done yet,” Baker said after throwing just a third of an inning against the Oakland Athletics. “It was exciting to do that today.”

The results weren’t very good. He gave up three runs on three hits including a home run by Chris Young. He also walked two and left with two men on -- though he may have been squeezed on a couple of calls.

“Occasionally I got a little jumpy and left the ball up a little bit,” he said. “Fell behind some guys and when I had a chance to make a good two-strike pitch I just didn’t make it. Surgery or no surgery, those are things you have to do to be successful.”

None of this is surprising. Baker is coming off Tommy John surgery and mid-April will mark a calendar year since going under the knife. Unlike Matt Garza, for example, the plan for Baker hasn’t changed since they signed the right-hander. In fact, the mid-April goal in 2013 for his return was picked knowing it would be about a year since surgery, that’s the going timetable for Tommy John operations.

“The results weren’t there, but physically I did everything I could to prepare for this outing,” Baker stated. “That’s going to continue to be the case. As long as I continue to progress and build the pitch count up, we’re still shooting for that mid-April time frame.”

Baker was asked if his health is still something to watch on a day-to-day basis, especially after he pitches.

“That’s still relevant until probably the middle of the season,” he replied. “I feel good enough to know I’ll feel all right tomorrow. At the same time, you never know.”

So optimistically it wouldn’t be wrong to claim Baker is right on schedule despite the rough outing against the A’s. Pessimistically, it also wouldn’t be wrong to take a wait-and-see approach.

“There’s plenty of guys that have come back in one year and done exceptionally well,” Baker said. “I’m hoping to prove to them I can be that guy.”

  • Javier Baez came up in the seventh inning in a 6-6 game with a man on third and less than two outs. Four pitches later he was down on strikes. Split-squad manager Jamie Quirk said he addressed the sitiuation with Baez afterwards.

    "You don’t want to take his game away from him, but those are the kind of at-bats that you've got to cut it down, put the ball in play and take the lead," Quirk said. "He has to learn how to take what they give him."

  • Garza played catch on Sunday, but has not thrown off a mound yet in his latest recovery from a lat injury suffered early in spring training.