If the plan was to stretch out Scott Baker for a possible major league start next week, consider Thursday night a success in Oklahoma City. Baker pitched five innings and threw 68 pitches for the Triple-A Dodgers on Thursday night against Round Rock.
With Hyun-jin Ryu on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers need a fifth starter on Tuesday, and Baker is on the short list of candidates to make that start.
The Dodgers signed Baker, 33, to a minor league contract on April 3 after he was released by the Yankees at the end of spring training. Baker pitched in 10⅓ innings in Grapefruit League play for the Yankees, and only one appearance was longer than three innings, a 4⅓-inning start on March 22.
"I know he was in camp the whole spring," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday. "He's a guy we're going to stretch out."
Baker started off Thursday with three strikeouts in the first inning on just 10 pitches. In the second inning Round Rock, the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, pushed across a run thanks to a pair of singles - one of the infield variety - plus a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
But that was pretty much it agains Baker, who struck out six and walked one in his five innings, allowing just the one run on three total hits. He was replaced by David Huff in the sixth inning.
Baker threw 54 of his 68 pitches for strikes. He talked with Jacob Unruh of The Oklahoman after the game:
"I think first and foremost being healthy is the most important thing," he said. "This year probably versus prior years I feel really healthy and really good. So I’m excited about being able to compete at 100 percent, which probably the last three or four years has not been the case."
Baker’s fastball was topping out around 93 mph and his slider was effective, leading to six strikeouts. He allowed just one earned run on three hits and a walk to suffer the loss.
If Baker, who would need a corresponding transaction to make room on the 40-man roster, doesn't start on Tuesday, the Dodgers would likely use several relievers in a bullpen game.
"No matter who we would start it's going to be a load on our bullpen," Mattingly said Tuesday.