John Baker on the comeback trail after Tommy John surgery

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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.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.