Baker takes positives from strong Mariners debut

Baker takes positives from strong Mariners debut

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Scott Baker has been around long enough to know that Spring Training games are, well, Spring Training games. But that didn't stop the veteran right-hander from feeling plenty good about his Cactus League debut Saturday in the Mariners' 5-3 win against the Angels.

Baker, 32, is almost a two years removed from Tommy John surgery and is making a bid for a rotation berth with Seattle after pitching just three September games for the Cubs last season. The Mariners need Baker as much as he needs them at this point, given injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker have already thinned the rotation competition.

Thus, Baker's two scoreless innings -- he allowed one hit, one walk and struck out one on 32 pitches -- loomed as a welcome initial step for a guy trying to crack the team as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal.

"I think it's huge," Baker said of making a positive early impression. "I haven't been in this scenario in quite a number of years where I've had to come in and try to make a team. But I've never allowed myself to use Spring Training to get ready for the season. I like to come in in good shape so I don't have to worry about that part of it and I can focus on getting ready as far as working on my pitches and trying to hit some spots.

"Overall, I'm happy with where I'm at as a whole at this point. Now it's just about building the innings and the pitches."

Baker was a quality starter for the Twins from 2007-11 until running into elbow problems. He owns a 63-48 record and 4.14 ERA in 166 Major League games (162 starts).

He didn't overwhelm the Angels on Saturday, but hit 91 mph while spotting his fastball, threw some good changeups and worked out of trouble after allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base in each frame.

"I thought the ball came out real well," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "It was good to see him competing again. He's not a power guy. He needs to stay out of the middle of the plate, make his pitches in and out, up and down. I thought he did pretty good with that today."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.