ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ron Washington values the contributions of long reliever Scott Baker.
Not a glamorous role, for sure, because when the call goes out for Baker to get loose, it’s a pretty good bet that things aren’t going the Rangers’ way.
In Monday’s 12-7 loss to the Houston Astros, Baker did his job as an inning-eater. He came on in the sixth and left with one out in the ninth on a warm night, finishing with 57 pitches of which 31 were strikes.
"He saved the bullpen," said Washington, the Texas Rangers manager. "I can’t say enough about Baker. That’s what we needed to keep the other guys fresh for the rest of the series. He’s done it for us all season."
Washington tried to reduce Baker’s workload by making Shawn Tolleson the first man out of the bullpen on Monday when starter Miles Mikolas couldn't make it out of the fourth. Tolleson retired five of six batters he faced.
"I tried not to bring Baker in too early," the manager said.
Rangers relievers saw heavy action and showed signs of weariness on the team’s 1-6 road trip that ended in Sunday’s 8-4 loss to the Mets.
Baker said he is aware that his job is to save the bullpen so that it is ready for the next day.
"First and foremost, you have to accept that you won’t be coming into the best situation," said Baker, a 32-year-old native of Shreveport, Louisiana. "It’s tough for me because I can’t get into a routine. I’m coming from a starter’s role when everything was pretty much according to plan."
Baker was touched for a home run by Alex Presley in the sixth. Houston nicked him for two more in the eighth. The Rangers weren’t able to mount a comeback against Astros relievers while he was in the game.
Said Baker: "I just do the best I can. I’ve got to be ready when they need me."