<
>

Baker to begin rehab; wants to return

Scott Baker, who has yet to pitch for the Cubs, will make a rehab start with Kane County on Sunday. AP Photo/Morry Gash

CHICAGO -- Although he hasn't thrown a pitch for the Chicago Cubs and admitted he felt "disconnected" while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in Arizona, pitcher Scott Baker wants to be a part of the organization's future.

"There's no secret there are a lot of great things going on here," Baker said Thursday at Wrigley Field after throwing a bullpen session for the coaching staff. "You go through different phases in your career, and I feel like I'm at that point now that I've been hurt and things have been taken away from me. I want to be with a team that's trying to win. There is no question this is going on here."

But Baker knows winning isn't necessarily around the corner. As the team tries to make strides, he's just trying to get healthy. He had surgery last April, signed a one-year deal with the Cubs in the offseason, then had a setback this spring.

But now he feels ready to pitch.

Baker threw a side session at Wrigley Field on Thursday and will now pitch for Class A Kane County on Sunday. Three more rehab starts will follow before he possibly joins the Cubs around Aug. 1. The timing would be perfect considering the Cubs could be trading more pitchers from their starting staff before that date. Scott Feldman has already been dealt and general manager Jed Hoyer said on Wednesday he's getting plenty of calls for Matt Garza.

"It's been long, it's been tough," Baker said. "Finally to the point I can start this rehab process."

The Cubs could use an experienced arm after last season's second-half collapse when they were forced to throw minor leaguers who weren't ready for prime time. Baker won 15 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2009, then 20 more combined in 2010 and 2011 before going down with his injury.

"It is nice to have a bona fide major league pitcher who's had a lot of success in the big leagues sitting in the wings in case something does happen," manager Dale Sveum said.

The bigger picture is whether Baker fits into any part of the Cubs' future. Fourth and fifth starters are needed on winning clubs, too, and although he can be traded after the July 31 deadline, Baker knows he'll get a chance to prove himself given the turnover on the Cubs' roster.

"It's hard not to pay attention to that," Baker said.

Hoyer said they've already thought about next year with Baker, if he proves himself healthy and worthy. Baker endeared himself to the Cubs by "apologizing" after his spring setback.

"My reasoning for that, I didn't want anyone to ever think I had any intention of being anything but a serviceable pitcher right from the beginning of the season," he explained.

So first it's get healthy and pitch well. Then it's about helping the Cubs win. The latter isn't happening anytime soon so Baker needs to focus on the former. The Cubs will give him that chance.

"It feels good to be wanted," Baker stated. "My focus is to get healthy and stay healthy."