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Mariners ink Baker to Minors deal with camp invite

Former 15-game winner is two years removed from Tommy John surgery

SEATTLE -- Veteran right-hander Scott Baker agreed to a one-year Minor League contract with the Mariners with an invitation to Major League camp Wednesday, as the club looks to add to its competition in the starting rotation.

Baker, 32, pitched just three games for the Cubs last September after returning from Tommy John surgery, but he is now nearly two years removed from the elbow injury that plagued him in 2012 while he was with the Twins.

Baker passed his physical exam Wednesday and will report to Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 12 with the rest of the Mariners' pitchers and catchers.

The contract is for $1 million if Baker makes the Major League roster, according to MLB Daily Dish, with a potential $3.25 million in additional incentives.

If Baker proves healthy this spring, he figures to get a good look from the Mariners, who are seeking a veteran starter to add to a rotation that has Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top and a host of youngsters -- including Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi -- competing for the other spots.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Baker was a solid starter for Minnesota from 2005-11, posting a 63-48 record with a 4.15 ERA in 163 games (159 starts). He had the eighth-best ERA in the American League in '08 at 3.45, won 15 games in '09 and was the Twins' Opening Day starter in '10.

But after going 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 2011, Baker missed the final two months of that season with elbow problems and then had Tommy John surgery the following year. The Cubs signed Baker to a $5.5 million deal last year, but he was able to make just three Major League starts, compiling a 3.60 ERA in three no-decisions while allowing just nine hits and four walks in 15 innings.

Baker also made eight rehab starts in Class A last year.

The Louisiana native was a second-round Draft pick of the Twins in 2003 out of Oklahoma State and made his MLB in '05 before moving permanently into Minnesota's rotation two years later.

With a fastball in the low 90s, Baker relies on excellent command and finished in the top seven in the AL in strikeouts-to-walk ratio in three straight seasons from 2008-10.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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