Scott Baker tosses five shutout innings in first start since 2011

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Cubs right-hander Scott Baker was terrible while rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery in the minors, posting a 5.46 ERA in eight starts along with reports of mid-80s velocity, yet yesterday in his first MLB start since 2011 he tossed five shutout innings against the Brewers.

Baker obviously hasn’t provided the type of return the Cubs wanted when they signed him to an incentive-laden one-year, $5 million deal and stuff-wise he’s not back to where he was for the Twins before the elbow injury, with Tony Andracki of CSNChicago.com writing that he topped out in the high-80s yesterday.

However, he needed just 55 pitches to record 15 outs and threw 39 of them for strikes before exiting for a pinch-hitter. Considering his last start was more than two years ago and his rehab assignment didn’t provide much reason for optimism it was a helluva return for Baker, who’ll likely be looking for another incentive-heavy one-year contract as a free agent this offseason.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.