LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Friday finalized their minor league contract with pitcher Scott Baker, who reported to media day on Tuesday for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. Oklahoma City pitching coach Scott Radinsky told reporters that Baker is tentatively scheduled to start opening day for the Triple-A Dodgers, which is Thursday night at home against Round Rock.
"Baker is the guy throwing opening day, as of now," Radinsky said.
That timing is key, because it would line up Baker to start next on regular rest on April 14, which is the first date the Dodgers need a fifth starter.
Hyun-jin Ryu lightly played catch - manager Don Mattingly categorized the throwing as "submaximal" effort - on Tuesday, the first time he has thrown a baseball in 16 days, dealing with shoulder inflammation. Mattingly didn't sound too optimistic that Ryu would be ready by the time the Dodgers need a fifth starter a second time either, on April 25.
"If you look at the positive side we don't need a steady fifth starter until May. With our situation with the off days and everything else we really don't need that fifth guy more than a couple of times," Mattingly said. "So we've got some time, that makes me feel better."
An off day on April 30 means if the Dodgers wanted to, they might not need a fifth starter a third time until May 5, their 26th game of the season.
The positive of using Baker to fill in as fifth starter while Ryu is out is that he's likely a better option than David Huff, who is more of a long man in relief and a spot starter. Baker was released by the Yankees on March 29, but pitched for them all spring so in theory he's built up enough to be able stretch deep into games. But then again, part of the reason he was released is that he allowed five runs in two innings in his final spring start, not exactly an encouraging performance.
Huff was the go-to in-house option for April 14 because he, like Baker, is not yet on the 40-man roster. There is room to add either one, as the roster is currently at 39 players, and Brandon League can still be transferred to the 60-day DL to create even more room if needed. But for the starting pitching options already on the 40-man roster — Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger — they were optioned can't come back for 10 days unless replacing an injured player, the 10-day rule.
But the downside of adding Baker to the active roster is then the Dodgers would have to keep him there, which may not be a downside depending on how well he pitches. Baker is out of options, having used them in 2005, 2006 and 2007 with the Twins.
We don't have a timetable yet for Ryu, and we won't know much for another week or so to see how his shoulder responds to his throwing program. But it's reasonable to think Ryu is out until at least into May, and the deeper into the month he is out the more the Dodgers would need Baker, or someone like him.