Elbow pain stops Baker; the manager stops Capps

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL IIILNEAL@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2011 - 12:30 AM

After the starter had to leave early, Ron Gardenhire had to pull his closer for the second game in a row.

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The Twins beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Tuesday for their third consecutive win, their sixth in their past seven games.

Yet all the talk after the game was about their problems.

Righthander Scott Baker left the game after five innings because of a mild elbow strain. And closer Matt Capps had to be removed from his second straight save opportunity, adding another layer to what is building up to be a closer controversy.

Baker has emerged as the staff ace while powering through opponents' batting orders. But he said he felt something in his elbow while throwing a pitch in the third inning. After getting through the fifth inning, he alerted the trainers and left the game.

He felt he could continue. He's had elbow problems as recently as last season, when he needed two cortisone shots. That was worse than what he felt on Tuesday.

"It was really hard to say something and I almost didn't because I knew I could pitch with it,'' Baker said, "but at this point of the season ... there's a lot of season left.''

Baker gave up just an unearned run on three hits and one walk while striking out three. He lowered his ERA to 3.01. He will have a precautionary MRI exam on Wednesday. If he just needs some rest, he can skip his next scheduled start, which is Sunday, then take it easy through the All-Star break next week.

"He said he could keep pitching, but we weren't going to let that happen when he said he felt something near his elbow,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Baker left the game with a 3-1 lead, after Ben Revere scored on a groundout in the first and scored in front of Alexi Casilla in the third on Michael Cuddyer's single to right that was misplayed by Matt Joyce.

Gardenhire tried to piece together scoreless innings. Lefthander Phil Dumatrait pitched 1 2/3 innings, giving up only one hit. Righthander Alex Burnett pitched a third of an inning. Joe Nathan gave up a single in the eighth but got through the inning.

Capps got the ball for the ninth. His first pitch, a slider, was driven over the left field wall by B.J. Upton. Many among the announced crowd of 38,613 booed. Casey Kotchman followed with a single to right, and more fans booed.

Capps said he feels healthy and thought he had good stuff Tuesday. He looked at video after the game and couldn't figure out what the problem is.

"I don't blame them,'' he said of the fans booing. "I haven't been very good. I'd boo me, too.''

Capps got two outs but walked Kelly Shoppach. That was enough for Gardenhire, who removed Capps for the second time in three games for lefthander Glen Perkins. He got Johnny Damon to bounce out to Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- on a very close play at first -- to end the game and earn his second save.

"It's been a pretty horrid week,'' Capps said, "and I'm ready to move on from it.''

Gardenhire, for the second time in three days, maintained that Capps is his closer.

"Our big goal is to get Capps throwing good because if we don't have Capps throwing good, we're going to struggle," he said. "That's a big part of our bullpen and we need Cappy to get going here.''

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