Scott Baker has waited more than a year to get this opportunity. Four days before he was scheduled to make his first Opening Day start last season, Baker was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder stiffness. It was a disappointing moment for the pitcher, who was eagerly anticipating the chance to pitch the first game of the Twins' season.
And it's why Baker is a tad cautious when he talks about getting a second chance at the honor this season."[I] still have a few days to go," Baker said with a chuckle when asked about his Opening Day start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday at 9:05 p.m. CT. "But it feels good. Obviously, there are going to be a few nerves there. I say that because I think it's kind of a big deal. Some people may not think that, but I think it's a big honor. So I'm going to go out there and enjoy it." After coming back from the shoulder injury, Baker then had a rough start to his 2009 season. He went 2-6 with a 6.32 ERA over the first two months of the season. But after June 1, he went 13-3 with a 3.67 ERA and helped lead the Twins to an American League Central title -- even pitching Game 163 against the Tigers in the one-game tiebreaker, although he got a no-decision in the extra-innings victory. This spring, Baker has limited the number of homers he's allowed, and he's managed, for the most part, to stay away from the big inning. Those are all things that Baker has carried over from a strong finish to the 2009 season, pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "The confidence and the consistency he's shown, he's kind of figuring himself out," Anderson said. "Last year, he kind of figured out how to make adjustments quicker -- pitch-to-pitch, hitter-to-hitter. He's recognizing why you throw a ball high, recognizing when you are going too fast and when you have to slow the ball down. "You saw early last year he had the big inning a lot. He'd have a no-hitter through four innings, and all of a sudden, the fifth inning it's, 'What happened?' He needed to stop the big inning and that's the big thing. That's a part of maturity and figuring things out."
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.