MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - While Scott Baker worked through elbow issues over the past two seasons, the Minnesota Twins right-hander heard the whispers both inside and outside Target Field.
"I knew I wasn't crazy," Baker said Friday. "I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen."
Baker battled pain in his elbow dating to 2010, and some urged him to try pitching through the pain. He was shut down for the season earlier this month and scheduled for surgery on his flexor pronator tendon. But once his arm was opened up, Dr. David Altchek made the decision that he needed Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament.
It was a tough blow for Baker, a free agent after this season, and the Twins, who desperately needed his accomplished arm near the top of their shaky rotation. But Baker also felt a little validated by the procedure, knowing it proved that the pain he was experiencing was real and the inability to pitch through it was not a lack of toughness.
There was also some relief that once the long and arduous rehab process is completed, Baker will finally be able to pitch with a healthy elbow.
"I'm kind of anxious to see what I'm capable of doing with a good, strong, healthy elbow," Baker said, "and the success rate of this surgery is extremely high."
Baker also said there were no hard feelings with the Twins for not diagnosing the injury sooner. He admitted not being completely open with team athletic trainers and doctors early on, and said the injury couldn't have been discovered until he had surgery.
"To be honest with you, you're not always completely forthright with the staff," he said. "I mean, that's any pitcher. I'm the last guy that wants to not be able to pitch, but there is a piece of mind in knowing, `Gosh, I did everything I could?' What else could I do?'"
The timing of the surgery couldn't be much worse, though. Baker will head into the offseason without a contract. He's holding out hope he will be ready for the start of next season, but the injury and recovery time could damage his value on the open market.
"As far as contract status, gosh, why worry about it?" said Baker, a second-round draft pick of the Twins in 2003. "There's nothing I can do about it. You obviously think about it. I like being here, I like playing for the Twins. I mean, there's no guarantee that I'll throw another pitch for the Twins, but it's kind of all I know."
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