Baker sifts through Royals in opener

Baker sifts through Royals in opener

KANSAS CITY -- A superb start with a no-decision.

Consider Scott Baker officially initiated into the Twins' rotation.

Promoted from Triple-A Rochester to replace a struggling Joe Mays on the starting staff and face the Royals on Monday, Baker gave up one run and four hits over seven innings.

In a familiar Minnesota story, one run allowed does not a win make. Just ask veterans like Brad Radke and Johan Santana. Baker left with the score tied at 1, but a 3-1 victory was pulled out over Kansas City in the 10th inning at Kauffman Stadium.

The Twins were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position through the first nine innings, with Michael Cuddyer hitting a fourth-inning RBI single. More often than not, hitters spent much of the night hitting into and out of rallies against starter D.J. Carrasco and the Kansas City bullpen.

Jacque Jones hit a one-out double and went to third on a wild pitch in the second, and he was left stranded. It was the same for Jason Bartlett and Michael Ryan in the fifth after they hit one-out singles. Bartlett hit a leadoff double in the eighth and reached third with one out, but couldn't make the last 90 feet.

"Another one of those ballgames we seem to play a lot of," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "[Baker] did just a super job. It's just unfortunate we couldn't score enough runs for him."

At least they couldn't until drawing Royals reliever Shawn Camp in the top of the 10th. Bartlett drew a leadoff walk and went to second on a wild pitch to Ryan, who also walked before Nick Punto lifted a two-run double to the left-field gap that scored both runners.

Of his last 11 outings since he was called up from Triple-A, Camp (1-4) has allowed runs in 10 games. It was a good matchup for a struggling Twins club that needed a win after dropping four of its previous five games, including two of three in a crushing series loss at Texas over the weekend.

Reliever Juan Rincon (6-4) pitched two innings and survived a bases-loaded threat in the bottom of the ninth to get the victory. Joe Nathan closed it out in the bottom of the 10th for his 33rd save.

A season-long trend was exemplified by the club's last three games. Radke, Santana and Baker have posted a combined 1.35 ERA in those games, but don't have a decision to share between the three of them.

"Like every other starter, you feel bad for [Baker] tonight. It's got to end some time," Ryan said.

Baker faced the minimum batters for the first three innings and retired 10 of his first 11. The lone run allowed crossed in the bottom of the fourth on Emil Brown's two-out RBI double through the gap in left-center field that scored the tying run.

Working for the first time since last Tuesday at Rochester, the 23-year-old right-hander had an extra day of rest and threw against a Kansas City lineup as hobbled as his own. The Royals were without injured leadoff catalyst David DeJesus and power hitter Mike Sweeney, a late scratch with a bad back.

Still, Baker was guaranteed nothing. Showing good command of his fastball, he threw between 92-94 mph much of the game. Once establishing that pitch, he mixed in effective changeups and breaking balls while walking one batter and striking out five.

"When I have a good game, that's what I'm able to do, get guys out with the fastball," Baker said. "I was able to get some guys to chase it up, and down at the knees when I needed to."

"When he's on, he's definitely on. When he's off, he's still pretty good," said Ryan, who also played behind Baker at Rochester this year. "And when he takes the mound, you know he gives you a chance to win. It's just a matter of scoring runs for him."

Baker is now 3-for-3 with impressive big league outings this season, but 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA overall. He had two spot starts under his belt -- a five-inning no-decision July 5 vs. the Angels and a seven-inning performance at Detroit, which earned him his first win.

But those games were just temp work, as Baker went back to Rochester both times. Now he's sticking around for the rest of the season.

"B-A-K-E-R. You can write that. You could even underline that," Gardenhire said. "He'll be in that rotation."

"It's a good feeling, without a doubt," Baker said. "Being able to settle in a little bit is important. The more I'm up here, the more I can get comfortable. Being up here the rest of the season is going to be big."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.