John Baker was limited to just 23 games last season due to right forearm and elbow injuries and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September. Position players can usually bounce back from surgery more quickly than pitchers, but because Baker is a catcher, the Marlins aren’t going to push him too soon.
With that in mind, Marlins president Larry Beinfest said earlier this month that he would like Baker to be a left-handed bat off the bench until he is ready to catch. Baker told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com today that he’s on board with the idea.
“In regards to being the lefty bat off the bench, I am all for it,” said Baker, who is doing his rehab work at his home in Northern California. “I just want to contribute to a winning team. I have a great example set by Wes Helms, and I will follow his lead throughout Spring Training and during the season. I am excited for the challenge of a new role.”
While Baker has only 108 plate appearances against southpaws in the big leagues, he has a .287/.368/.423 batting line and a 790 OPS against right-handed pitching. If healthy, he could outproduce the other current in-house candidates and available free agents.
Baker told Frisaro that he is currently hitting 75 flip tosses four times a week and plans to embark on a three-month throwing program in early January. Barring any setbacks, he expects to be ready for the start of the 2011 season.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.