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Back pain sidelines Baker

Back pain sidelines Baker

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Scott Baker's back injury is taking longer to heal than expected, and there is a possibility it could prevent him from being ready for the start of the season.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Wednesday that Baker will not make a start in a Minor League game this weekend, as was expected, and the injury could alter the team's plans for the rotation coming out of spring.

"[Pitching coach Rick Anderson] said, 'If this pushes on for another week or so, we're going to have to start making other plans,'" Gardenhire said. "We'll just have to see where it leads us."

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Baker played catch on Wednesday and said afterward that he felt great. He even hoped to get back onto the mound for a bullpen session as early as Friday.

But the Twins are remaining very cautious in their approach with the right-hander. Anderson said Baker will play long toss on Thursday and his next start likely won't come until the middle of next week -- if there are no setbacks.

"There's no sense to push him," Anderson said. "It's just better to be safer than sorry."

Baker first felt a tweak in his back on March 3 while pitching in a "B" game against the Red Sox. He felt the tightness in the muscle again in his next start, and pitched just two innings against the Pirates. That's when the Twins decided to give Baker's scheduled start on Thursday to Nick Blackburn and allow the right-hander some extra days to rest.

"It's going slower than I'd like it to," Baker said. "But I understand why they would want to do it this way. Really, a couple extra days is such a small sacrifice if you look at the big picture."

In contrast to Baker's slow progress, third baseman Mike Lamb's sore left hip has gotten significantly better. Gardenhire said he expects Lamb to play on Friday when the Twins host the Pirates at Hammond Stadium.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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