Baker gives Dodgers boost with strong debut
Right-hander fans six over seven innings in spot start
SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers didn't get the series sweep over the Padres on Sunday, but they did get a quality start, which is no minor achievement considering their rotation is under siege.
Scott Baker, released by the Yankees at the end of Spring Training and signed by the Dodgers for a spot-start role like this one, pitched seven innings after getting called up from Triple-A in a 3-1 loss to the Padres. He allowed three runs, two on solo homers by Alexi Amarista and Derek Norris, who also doubled in the other run.
"I thought he was good," said manager Don Mattingly. "He gave us a chance to win, which is what we ask of all of our starters. Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle and you can ride it. We'll see how it goes."
Baker is already the seventh starter the Dodgers have used this month, with No. 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu disabled and No. 4 starter Brandon McCarthy possibly joining him after Monday's scheduled elbow MRI.
Rotating through Ryu's spot in the rotation, Baker, David Huff and Mike Bolsinger have a 4.32 ERA and the Dodgers are 1-2 in their three starts.
The 34-year-old Baker is one of many often-injured reclamation projects the Dodgers have undertaken this year.
A former hard-throwing second-round pick, Baker had three seasons of double-digit victories for the Twins. But the last four years he's been mostly injured, missing the entire 2012 season and most of 2013 with Tommy John surgery.
His fastball Sunday hovered around 89-90, but his location was good enough to rack up seven strikeouts, including Justin Upton three times.
Baker admitted to being a little "jumpy" at the start, when the Dodgers defense saved a first-inning run from scoring on Matt Kemp's double as center fielder Joc Pederson cut the line drive off in the gap, threw to second baseman Justin Turner, who relayed to catcher Yasmani Grandal for the tag of Yangervis Solarte trying to score from first.
Baker said he didn't regret the pitch that Amarista hit out to lead off the third inning, but was hard on himself for not holding Kemp on better at first base after a fourth-inning leadoff walk. Kemp scored on Norris' two-out double and Norris finished the scoring with a solo shot in the seventh.
"That played a big difference in today's game," Baker said of Kemp's steal into scoring position.
Baker, who nearly threw a seven-inning perfect game in his most recent Minor League start, said he was comfortable going into Sunday's start, appreciated the game plan deployed by Grandal and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and took the blame for not executing pitches.
He wouldn't say if he felt he earned another start, "That's above my pay grade," he said, but added that he finally feels healthy, which has allowed a normal starting pitcher's routine, including an off-season void of rehab.
"I can't emphasize how important that is," he said.