While the Mariners were in Tempe playing the Angels, Scott Baker was on the back field in Peoria pitching in a minor league game against players likely headed for the Nashville Sounds – Milwaukee’s Triple A team.
No, it wasn’t a demotion.
After making his previous start against the Angels in Tempe, the Mariners decided to have Baker start a minor league game rather than having a divisional opponent see him in back-to-back starts in spring training. It’s a common occurrence.
“I would have been happy to go over and throw again,” he said. “That was up to them. I totally understand. It’s a team within your division and you are going to play them a lot as it is. Every team I’ve been on, they’ve tried to be cautious of that.”
To Baker, whom he pitches against in spring training isn’t as important as finding and building command and feel with his pitches.
“As long as you accomplish what you set out to do whether it’s in a major league spring training game or on the minor league side, and you feel like you accomplish that – at this point, it doesn’t matter. I know what flies and what don’t in a major league baseball game. Today, I felt I was pretty sharp.”
Baker threw 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 75 pitches with 47 strikes.
“I felt really good,” he said. “There were a couple things I wanted to accomplish as far as making better two strikes pitches. For the most part, I did that. Obviously, in those minor leagues games guys are really aggressive and I feel like only the balls they really hit were get-me-over pitches. But for the most part, I felt like everything was crisp. First inning was a little jumpy, but I settled in.”
That first inning featured back-to-back one-out walks as Baker struggled with his fastball command. Catcher John Buck came out to calm him down. “We all have these kinds of things that we have to be aware of,” he said. “For me, it’s to really stay tall and stay back. I was kind of collapsing and getting out front. It was just a matter of refocusing on staying tall and after that it was fine. (Buck) has been around. He knows what he’s doing and he can see it.”
Jeremy Hermida made him pay for the walks with a two-out RBI single, but Baker ended the damage after that.
Baker’s other run allowed came in the third inning when he gave up a lead-off double and a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
He couldn’t quite make it out of he fifth before reaching his pitch count. He gave up a two-out double on a 2-2 count.
“I felt like I could have gone more,” he said. “Obviously, I would have liked to get that last guy out. I had two strikes and I tried to sneak a fastball by him and he ran into it. For the most part, I felt really good and really strong and like I could have gone more.”
Baker’s command of his offspeed pitches – particularly his curveball – was a major positive.
“It was much sharper than it had been,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for. I like to get ahead of guys and then spread them out with either balls up and in or breaking balls down. For the most part, I felt pretty good with where they were ending up.”