Baker with the Minnesota Twins
|Born: September 19, 1981|
|May 7, 2005, for the Minnesota Twins|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 2, 2015, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Earned run average||4.26|
Timothy Scott Baker (born September 19, 1981) is an American former professional baseball starting pitcher. He stands 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall and weighs 215 pounds (98 kg). He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. He bats and throws right-handed.
Baker grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attended Oklahoma State University. He was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2003 amateur entry draft and reached the major leagues in 2005. In 2006, he made their starting rotation out of Spring training but struggled and was sent to the minor leagues for most of the rest of the season. Beginning 2007 in the minors, he was called up in May and nearly threw a perfect game on August 31. He went 11–4 in 2008 and posted a 3.45 earned run average (ERA). In 2009, Baker logged a career-high 200 innings and started the American League (AL) tiebreaker game against the Detroit Tigers which the Twins won to advance to the postseason. He had a 12–9 record in 2010 but battled injuries towards the end of the year and was left out of the Twins' postseason rotation. Injuries limited Baker in 2011 again, but he was the only Twins' pitcher to post a winning record. He missed 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery; this also caused him to miss most of 2013, which he spent with the Chicago Cubs. He began 2014 in the minor leagues but was later added to the Texas Rangers' roster.
Baker was born September 19, 1981, in Shreveport, Louisiana. He attended Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, graduating in 2000. He was selected to the All-State team his senior year and played college baseball at Oklahoma State University. In the 2001 season, he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. In the 2003 season, he was named second team All-Big 12. In Baker's honor, Captain Shreve retired his number 11 in 2006, and the Parent-Teacher-Student Association inducted him into its "Circle of Honor" in 2009.
Baker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round (58th overall) of the 2003 amateur entry draft. He began his minor league career with the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits that same year. In 2004, he played for the Class A-ADvanced Fort Myers Miracle, Double-A New Britain Rock Cats, and Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, where he would spend the rest of his minor league career outside of rehab assignments until 2014. In 2004, he won a combined 10 games. He pitched the majority of his 2005 and 2006 seasons with Rochester. He pitched just seven games in 2007 for the Red Wings before being called up to pitch the rest of his 2007 season with the Twins.
Baker was called up on May 3, 2005, following an injury to Kyle Lohse; Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire said he might be used to start if Lohse did not continue to improve. Baker did not wind up starting, making his Major League debut by pitching one scoreless inning out of the bullpen in an 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on May 7. That was his only appearance before he was returned to Rochester on May 11. He was recalled in July to make a start in place of Brad Radke, who was nursing an injury. On July 5, he made his first Major League start by going five innings while giving up just two runs on five hits and striking out five; however, he took the loss in a 2-1 defeat against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Gardenhire had praise for him, saying after the game, "We think we have a quality Major Leaguer ready to go, ready to pitch in the Major Leagues. He kind of proved that theory again tonight." A few weeks later, on July 23, Baker had his first career win in Detroit with a 5-2 victory over the Tigers. He started and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just two runs, but was sent back to Rochester immediately after the game as part of a premeditated plan. On August 29, he returned to the Twins starting rotation for the remainder of the year, making seven consecutive starts to close the season as he replaced the struggling Joe Mays in the rotation. Baker finished his rookie year with a record of 3-3 and an ERA of 3.35.
Baker beat out Francisco Liriano to earn the Twins' No. 5 starting spot out of Spring training. But he struggled with his command, unable to keep the ball down, and did not live up to the expectations following his rookie season. The 2–5 start with a 6.06 ERA caused Baker to be demoted to Rochester on June 1.
Baker ended up spending nearly the entire second half with the Rochester Red Wings, making only a handful of starts after the demotion. While the Twins played great baseball after a 25-33 start by winning the division on the last game of the regular season, Baker's season was a major disappointment. He finished the year with a 5-8 record and a 6.37 ERA in 83.1 innings, with two of the wins coming against the New York Yankees. Baker did not make the Twins' postseason roster.
Baker failed to legitimately contend for the Twins' rotation in 2007, opening the season with Rochester. But in May, the Twins removed Sidney Ponson from the rotation, giving Baker a chance to start again. In his first start of the season, on May 19, he pitched into the ninth inning, allowing two runs in a 5–2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. On July 26, after scuffling in several starts, he struck out a career-high nine hitters over seven innings in a 12-inning, 2–1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched a complete game on July 1, allowing only a home run to Marcus Thames, but that run was the only run of the game in a 1–0 loss to Detroit. He threw eight shutout innings on August 5, earning the victory in a 1–0 win over the Cleveland Indians. On August 31, 2007, Baker took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome during the second game of a doubleheader, but lost his bid for perfection when he issued a walk to the first batter he faced in the ninth, John Buck. The second hitter after Buck that he faced, Mike Sweeney, hit a single, ending Baker's bid for a no-hitter. Baker finished the game by beating the Royals 5-0 allowing just one hit and completing his second complete game of his career. In 24 games, 23 of which were starts, Baker had a 9–9 record, a 4.26 ERA, and 102 strikeouts in innings.
Baker was limited to two games in 2008 Spring training by a strained lat muscle and the flu, but he again made the Twins' rotation. He won his first two starts of the season, April 4 and April 9. From May 7 to June 5, he was on the disabled list (DL) with a strained right groin, the first DL stint of his career. On June 15, 2008, Baker became the first Minnesota Twins pitcher to ever throw four strikeouts in the same inning. In the 3rd inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, Baker struck out Ryan Braun, then struck out Prince Fielder, but the ball bounced away from catcher Mike Redmond, so Fielder went to first base. Baker then proceeded to strike out Russell Branyan and Mike Cameron. The last pitcher to record such a feat was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who did it on September 23, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Baker picked up his first career hit against Josh Banks on June 26 and earned the win in a 4–3 victory over the San Diego Padres. On July 20, Baker opened a game against the Texas Rangers with perfect innings but again wound up losing a game in which he pitched eight innings 1–0 when he allowed a solo home run to Taylor Teagarden. On August 21, he allowed one run in eight innings and earned a no-decision in a 12-inning, 2–1 victory over the Angels. Baker finished the season 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 141 strikeouts. His 0.48 ground ball/fly ball ratio was the lowest in the major leagues for 2008. The Twins finished the season tied with the Chicago White Sox for the American League Central lead, but the White Sox won a one-game playoff, eliminating the Twins.
Baker was expected to be the Twins' Opening Day starter, but he opened the 2009 season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness and struggled in his return, posting a 9.15 ERA in his first four starts. On May 3, he appeared to be improving when he no-hit the Royals through six innings, but he gave up five runs in the seventh inning of that game. He earned his first win on May 8, pitching seven shutout innings in an 11–0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. On May 24, he gave up three runs in innings and earned the win in a 6–3 victory over Milwaukee. Baker began trying to stay taller in his delivery, and on June 4 he struck out a career-high 10 batters in an 11–3 victory over the Indians. Baker went 4–0 in June, and from July 12 through September 5, he set a career-high with seven straight wins. On August 14, he had a two-hit shutout in an 11–0 win over Cleveland. On September 29, Baker defeated Detroit, averting elimination for the Twins. After sitting seven games out of the AL Central lead on September 6, the Twins forced a tiebreaker with the Tigers, and Baker made the start. He allowed three runs over six innings, left eligible for the win, but took a no-decision. However, the Twins won 6–5 in 12 innings to clinch a trip to the playoffs. He led the Twins with 15 wins, 162 strikeouts, and finished second on the team behind Nick Blackburn with a 4.37 ERA, while pitching a career high 200 innings. However, the Twins were swept in three games in the 2009 American League Division Series against the Yankees, preventing Baker from making any playoff appearances.
Baker started on Opening Day for the Twins to kick off the 2010 season against the Angels but allowed four runs in innings, taking the loss in a 6–3 defeat. He won his next start, allowing one run in seven innings in a 2–1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Through May 8, he went 4–2. On June 16, Baker struck out a career-best 12 batters through seven innings in a 2–1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. He picked up his 50th career win on July 2, allowing one run in seven innings in a 2–1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. On August 10, he allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings but earned his 10th win of the season in a 12–6 victory over the White Sox. He left a start with elbow pain on September 2 and did not pitch again until September 21. Baker finished the season on a 9–1 stretch and helped the Twins repeat as winners of the AL Central. In 29 starts, he had a 12–9 record, a 4.49 ERA, and 148 strikeouts in innings. During the season, he moved from 22nd to 12th all-time on the Twins' strikeout list. Baker was left out of the Twins' postseason rotation, though he was a member of their bullpen. He made his playoff debut in Game 3 of the ALDS, allowing one run in innings as the Twins were again swept by the Yankees.
Baker had to compete with Kevin Slowey for the starting rotation in 2011, but he won the competition and entered the season as the Twins' No. 4 starter. He threw seven shutout innings on April 21 in a 3–1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He threw a complete game on June 11, allowing one run and striking out seven in an 8–1 victory over the Rangers. One week later, he threw eight shutout innings and had 10 strikeouts in a 1–0 victory over the San Diego Padres. Baker had a strong season before missing time with injuries. His ERA at the end of July was 2.86, and he made two starts in August before spending much of the rest of the season on the disabled list with an injured elbow. He finished the season with an 8-6 record and a 3.14 ERA. Baker was the Twins only starting pitcher to have a winning record in 2011, and he led the team in ERA, strikeouts (123), and WHIP (1.17).
On March 31, 2012, Baker was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 26, due to elbow tendinitis. He made a rehab start with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle in their first game of the season. He threw just 11 pitches in the start, and it was announced on April 11 that Baker would miss the entire 2012 season with Tommy John surgery. Baker said, "It's something that I've been battling for a while. I don't mind pitching through pain, as long as you don't have the chance to further the injury. But when it comes to a point where your velocity's not there and you don't have the ability to finish pitches like you know you're capable of doing, then something's got to be done." On October 29, the Twins announced they declined their club option for Baker worth $9.25 million, ending Baker's tenure with the team.
On November 13, 2012, the Chicago Cubs announced they signed Baker to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million with $1.5 million in possible bonuses. Due to various setbacks and injuries that lingered throughout the season, Baker did not pitch for the Cubs until September. Though manager Dale Sveum wanted to use him in relief, Baker convinced him to let him start. He started three games, with no record and a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings.
Baker signed a minor-league deal with the Seattle Mariners on January 29, 2014. After posting a 6.75 ERA in four Spring training starts with the Mariners and refusing a minor league assignment, Baker was released on March 24.
On March 25, 2014 he signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. He was brought up to the Rangers on May 7, to serve as a long reliever. He was designated for assignment after throwing innings of relief in a game, with the Rangers needing more-rested arms in their bullpen, but he was soon recalled. He was added to the rotation on May 23 when the Rangers decided that Robbie Ross was better suited for the bullpen. However, Baker returned to a long relief role after two starts when Joe Saunders came off the DL. Late in the season, Baker was again used as a starter, making starts August 24, August 29, September 5, and September 27. In 25 games (eight starts), Baker had a 3–4 record, a 5.47 ERA, 55 strikeouts, and 14 walks in innings. On October 30, he became a free agent.
In late January 2015, Baker signed with the New York Yankees to a minor league contract worth $1.5 million if he made the major league roster. However, on March 29, he was released by the Yankees.
In April 2015, he signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was assigned to the Triple-AOklahoma City Dodgers. He made three starts for Oklahoma City in April and was 1-1 with a 1.06 ERA. In a seven inning game (shortened due to it being the first game of a doubleheader) against the Iowa Cubs on April 20, Baker came within one strike of pitching a perfect game, retiring the first 20 batters he faced before Addison Russell's double up the middle with two strikes on him. The Dodgers purchased his contract and called him up to the Majors to make a spot start against the San Diego Padres on April 26. He made two starts for the Dodgers and was 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA before he was designated for assignment on May 3, 2015. He made 13 starts in Triple-A and was 7-3 with a 3.39 ERA. He left a start in July because of injury and spent the rest of the season on the disabled list.
Through the 2011 season, Baker threw six pitches: a four-seam fastball, his lead pitch (89-94 mph); a two-seam fastball (88-93 mph); a cut fastball (mid 80s); a slider (low 80s); a curveball (79-81 mph); and a changeup (low 80s). His repertoire against right-handed hitters is mostly four-seamer/slider, while against lefties he throws the two-seamer, as well. The cutter, curveball, and changeup are infrequent offerings. Since Baker's return in 2013, his average fastball velocity has dropped to the high eighties, and he has been reluctant to throw the curveball, not using it at all in 2014 as of June 4.
Baker has been a good control pitcher throughout his career, finishing in the top 10 in the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio three times. He has the fourth-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the history of the Twins, including their time as the Washington Senators, at 3.438 (behind Slowey's 4.702, Jim Merritt's 3.904, and Johan Santana's 3.794); he also has the eighth-best strikeouts per 9 innings pitched number in Twins' history (7.234).
Baker and his wife Leann have two sons, Eli and Easton. He is known for being soft-spoken. Since a "young age", Baker has been a Christian. He says, "I can't tell you how much I appreciated my parents for [bringing me to church]" and that he is "eternally grateful." He especially enjoys Paul's letters to the churches, saying, "It gives you hope... insight... peace in our daily lives." Baker is a member of Shreveport's Broadmoor Baptist Church; in addition, he is a Chapel Leader for Baseball Chapel in Minneapolis.