Twins' rotation on shaky ground
Baker's illness throws rest of Minnesota staff in flux
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There is increasing concern by the Twins about whether right-hander Scott Baker will indeed be ready for the start of the season.Baker, who has been slowed by a strained lat muscle and a case of the flu this spring, threw a bullpen session on Monday morning. But he appeared to be weak and extremely fatigued during the session. The pitcher has lost 10-12 pounds from his bout with the flu, and the Twins feel that he may not be completely back to health. So the team has taken Baker out of his scheduled start in Wednesday's Grapefruit League contest in case it has to start him on the disabled list. "It's not looking well for him to start the season with us right now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're not positive, but we've got to try to get him healthy." Before Baker's difficult bullpen session on Monday morning, the biggest concern for the Twins had appeared to be the status of Francisco Liriano. The talented left-hander, who is 15 months removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, will get one more spring start on Friday. That's when the Twins will decide whether or not he's ready to break camp with the team. Gardenhire said the decision of whether to take Liriano to Minnesota will not be made based on Baker's status. "The Liriano decision is based on him, not what another guy does," Gardenhire said. "If we have to, we'll recall somebody back over here."
If Liriano is not ready to start the season, it likely will be right-hander Nick Blackburn who takes his spot.Blackburn looks to get the nod after the Twins other expected rotation option, right-hander Philip Humber, was one of five cuts the team made on Monday. The Twins reduced their number of pitchers to 13 as they also re-assigned Casey Daigle to Minor League camp. Humber was one of three pitchers the Twins acquired from the Mets in exchange for Johan Santana. He posted a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings this spring. The right-hander is entering just his second full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2005. And while he was unable to earn a spot out of spring, Humber said he was pleased with the impression he left with the Twins' coaching staff. "This is the best I've felt in pro ball by far," Humber said. "I feel like I'm in control of all my pitches. I feel like I've got life on my fastball, and I can really attack hitters with three good pitches. I'm excited. If I keep throwing the way I'm throwing, I don't have any doubt I'll be back here soon." While the Twins' rotation is still in flux, one other pitching spot has been decided. Right-hander Brian Bass, who started Monday's 8-4 loss to the Cardinals, appears to have locked up a spot on the team's roster in a long relief role. Bass is out of options and has posted a 2.51 ERA over 14 1/3 innings this spring.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.