Friday, April 3, 2009

Baker to DL; Pitching Staff Likely Set

Scott Baker landed on the disabled list Thursday with right shoulder stiffness. He was the Twins' opening day starter but now will miss at least one start. The Twins will instead start Francisco Liriano on Monday night against Seattle ("King Felix" Hernandez will provide the mound opposition), followed by Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins.

Baker had pitched five scoreless innings in the AAA game on Wednesday, but experienced shoulder pain and cut his outing short. The DL move is retroactive to last Friday, and he's eligible for activation on April 12.

Baker's situation means the Twins likely will keep 12 pitchers for the opening day roster, as Joe Christensen reports. This is good news for R.A. Dickey and Philip Humber. Dickey will likely fill the fifth starter role and may see action against Chicago next Friday. Since Dickey is on a minor league deal, the Twins would have to add him to the 40-man major league roster, and would be forced to remove someone. Rookie LH Brian Duensing likely had already clinched a spot as a lefty set-up man to go along with Craig Breslow. Having 12 pitchers on staff represents bad news for either Matt Tolbert or Brendan Harris, as only one of them will make the opening roster as the utility infielder.

As Aaron Gleeman writes here, the Twins brass appears to be split between the two players, with manager Ron Gardenhire preferring Tolbert and GM Bill Smith apparently favoring Harris. Tolbert is the better defender, while Harris is the better hitter. My bet is that Tolbert takes the spot, although it does make a lot of sense for the Twins to keep Harris and send Tolbert to the minors, as he has an option remaining and Harris is out of options.

The Twins should go with Harris and his career .269/.330/.408 major league line over Tolbert's .279/.342/.401 minor league figures. It's easy to fall for Tolbert's hustle and his almost reckless-abandon play, but the risk of losing a versatile and more proven major league hitter in Harris far out-weighs keeping someone with options remaining. Besides, injuries happen, and Tolbert would stand to be among the first to receive the call.

Also, as expected, the Twins put Boof Bonser and Joe Mauer on the DL today. Bonser is out for the year, so the Twins could end up putting him on the 60-day DL to avoid outrighting someone else to make room for Dickey.

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