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Baker progresses, but longs for hook, sinker

MESA, Ariz. --- Cubs pitcher Scott Baker, coming back from April Tommy John surgery, threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Saturday at Fitch Park and said his rehab has gone well. He just needs a fishing hole.

"It's another step in the right direction," Baker said Saturday.

The right-hander was expected to throw at least two simulated games or live batting practice sessions before he gets into a Cactus League game, but he wasn't sure of the exact timing. He's leaving that to the medical and coaching staff.

"Everything felt good," Baker said of Saturday's session. "As long as everything keeps going well, it's hard to be not pleased with that."

Was he throwing full speed?

"For me, it's more mechanical than physical," Baker said. "You hear a million times, 'Stay within yourself' and it's never more true than now. It's very easy when you feel good to get out there and get real sloppy. I'm throwing with as much intensity as my mechanics will allow."

There's a lot of work still to be done. Baker needs to get in game situations, think about pitch selection, hitter's tendencies, things like that.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Baker is "right on schedule" in his rehab. If all goes well, the right-hander could be in the Cubs rotation by mid-April.

"The effort level picked up today," Sveum said of Saturday's session. "We're just looking forward to getting him against live hitters and a couple sessions of that and get him in a game in the middle of March and go from there."

So far, Baker's Cubs experience has gone well.

"I think the training staff and medical staff have been great," Baker said. "That was one thing that I felt was important when I chose to sign somewhere. We had similar opinions on how this thing should go. They've been spot on as far as what to do, the timing. We all know there's a lot of great things going on in this organization, and they really made you feel they cared about you and not [seeing you as] just another pitcher. Their interest is my interest -- what more could you ask for than that?"

Baker has spent his previous Spring Trainings in Florida. The only drawback has been the lack of fishing holes in the Valley of the Sun.

"I love to fish," Baker said. "I'd take a boat down there [in Fort Myers, Fla.]. I don't play golf, so I'd go fishing. This is good, too."