Kickin’ It with Scott Baker

In baseball and in life things are always easy when the going is good. It’s when we hit life’s inventible rough spots that our true character comes out. In Scott Baker’s case that’s good news. The 27-year-old righthander was a miserable 2-6 with a 6.32 ERA at the end of May. Since then he’s been a sterling 10-1 and lowered his ERA by nearly two runs.

I caught up with Baker after batting practice on Tuesday to discuss his Jekyll & Hyde season and pick his brain about life as a major league pitcher.

DZ: First off, congrats on the great start (Monday) night. What’s it like after you come out of a game and you are watching your team hold a lead? Do you feel nervous because you can’t control things anymore?

BAKER: No, absolutely not. I know regardless of the outcome of the game, the guys are going out there and doing the absolute very best that they can. I am fine with that. Obviously, we want to nail down the game and, for the most part, we are pretty successful at doing that. We’ve got a very good back end of the bullpen and I have no problem handing the ball off to those guys.

DZ: You’ve been pitching very well lately - especially in August - but really since June. What’s been the difference for you after the slow start?

BAKER: I am just pitching better, really. I’ve had the same mentality, the same objective the whole time. Early on there were a couple of mechanical adjustments that had to be made, but I felt like I was throwing the ball better for awhile there but just wasn’t getting the results I needed…just basically staying positive and knowing what I was doing was eventually going to work – sticking to your guns a little bit.

DZ: Obviously, a lot of pitching is mechanics and maybe a lot of fans out there don’t understand how intricate it is. You said you made some mechanical adjustments, how noticeable are those to you when you look at the film?

BAKER: Sometimes you have to look at the film to see them. A lot of times it can be a very minute thing where you can’t see it unless you do have the technology we have today with the video (to) slow things down…..and put two different videos side-by-side so you can go through and see what the difference is from when things are going well to when things weren’t going well.

DZ: Do you have an example of what (an issue) might be?

BAKER: Little things like just not allowing yourself to get to a position where you are not going to stay on top of the ball and drive the ball down into the zone…I think all of us would say we work well with Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) to try to fine-tune things. It’s definitely a game of adjustments and you have to stay on top of it; I don’t ever believe you are a finished product. No matter how you’re pitching or how your performance is, you always seem to be working on something – you always have to be working on something.

DZ: Let’s go back to the beginning of the season. You started April on the DL with shoulder stiffness. Did that carry over at all into the season?

BAKER: I don’t think so…if you are pitching through pain that’s a totally different thing, but I wasn’t. I felt good, but sometimes it just takes a while to get going. Unfortunately that was the case this year. I am glad I’ve turned things around and hopefully, I can give my team a chance to win – that’s the main objective…I think right now we are having a good time. We are right where we want to be and that’s a lot of fun.

DZ: You signed a contract extension during the off-season. I imagine when you sign a contract like that it gives you some peace of mind from the financial security, but also you probably feel there’s a little more pressure on you because the team has shown that they believe in you and they expect you to be a big part of things.

BAKER: I think that goes both ways. I think you show faith in the team too, you show this is where you want to be. If you go year-to-year, you could make a significantly more amount of money. It definitely gives peace of mind knowing that I am going to be here, it’s a great thing for my family. It allows us to purchase a home and know that we are going to be here for awhile and there’s something to be said about that. I really feel it frees you from some things you could possibly worry about so you can go out there and really enjoy yourself and have a good time and in my opinion, basically pitch better.

DZ: We’ve talked before about you coming up with a lot of the other starters in the rotation. You pitched with a lot of these guys in the minor leagues and you’re all basically around the same age. Things haven’t gone as well for the group as they did last year – injuries, etc. – what do you guys do to pick each other up?

BAKER: I think we all know this is the majority of the guys second full season (in the majors). There always seems to be an adjustment period…I think we just try to have a good time. I think I’d be lying to say we have a good time regardless of what is going on during in the game, on the field. If we can lend a hand or see something that we’ve possibly been through a similar type of circumstance…we are going to help those guys out. We root for each other and enjoy being around each other. We want to be here together as long as possible and we are going to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

DZ: You mentioned the second year (adjustment), is that just a matter of players and coaches watching film in the offseason and picking up things?

BAKER: Absolutely. The way the game is now with all of the video and scouting, guys are going to make adjustments to you; that is just part of the game. You just have to learn how to combat those things and stay on top of things and realize sometimes there is not just one way to do things. You have to figure about different ways to get the job done.

DZ: Psychologically, if you did something the year before and it worked and then all of the sudden it’s not working anymore, there must be some kind of a process just to deal with that. Young guys are sometimes kind of stubborn.

BAKER: Yeah, a lot of times when you get up here there are things that won’t fly for very long – they’ll work for a little while and then guys make the adjustments. Basically you are just trying to be as consistent as possible and pitch down in the zone. A lot of times if you pitch down in the zone, the mistakes aren’t as noticeable…It’s a lot easier to get here than it is to stay here.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:

August 18: Jason Kubel
August 16: Carl Pavano
July 28: Justin Morneau
July 15: Anthony Swarzak
July 10: Bobby Keppel
July 8: Denard Span

2 Responses to “Kickin’ It with Scott Baker”

  1. Breaking Down It Down with Nick Punto » MinnesotaSCORE Says:

    […] 27: Scott Baker August 18: Jason Kubel August 16: Carl Pavano July 28: Justin Morneau July 15: Anthony Swarzak July […]

  2. Q&A with Brian Duensing » MinnesotaSCORE Says:

    […] 3: Jon Rauch August 28: Nick Punto August 27: Scott Baker August 18: Jason Kubel August 16: Carl Pavano July 28: Justin Morneau July 15: Anthony Swarzak July […]

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