Twins place Scott Baker on disabled list

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Scott Baker is back on track after missing some time due to right elbow inflammation, allowing one run over four innings in a minor league exhibition game earlier today, but the Twins have decided to go the safe route and place him on the 15-day disabled list.

Baker’s DL-stint was backdated to March 27, so he is eligible to return as soon as April 12. Barring any setbacks, he should be ready to go around then.

Jason Marquis is away from the team right now as he tends to his seven-year-old daughter, who was recently involved in a serious bicycle accident, so Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Liam Hendriks are expected to start during the first series of the season against the Orioles. Baker was originally penciled in to start the home opener on April 9 against the Angels, but now Nick Blackburn will get the call.

Baker, 31, posted a career-best 3.14 ERA and 123/32 K/BB ratio over 134 2/3 innings last season. However, he was limited to just four starts and two relief appearances after the All-Star break due to a strained flexor muscle in his elbow.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.