MINNEAPOLIS The Minnesota Twins entered this season hoping right-hander Scott Baker would be starting their home-opener today. Instead, Baker was preparing to travel to New York to get a second opinion on his troublesome right elbow from Dr. David Altchek.
A recent MRI showed the same flexor strain that bothered Baker at times last season, and the Twins are worried about the continual flare-ups.
"If he's not here and he's on the DL, I've got some concern," Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said. "No doubt. I'd like to have him. He's supposed to be starting this game. But we'll put somebody else out there. That's the way it is. He's just not ready to pitch yet."
Nick Blackburn started Monday and gave up five runs over six innings in a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Liam Hendriks -- taking a spot in the rotation due to the absences of Baker and Jason Marquis -- has missed his start because of food poisoning. Marquis could be on track to join the team soon, but the starting rotation is already in flux, less than a week into the season.
A right flexor strain put Baker on the disabled list twice last season, finishing his season for good on August 9. Hoping for some type of resolution, Ryan is pushing for the quickest possible check-up. Altchek is the same surgeon that performed former Minnesota closer Joe Nathan's Tommy John surgery in 2010.
"I'm trying to push that up as fast as I can," Ryan said about the follow-up with Altchek. "It's legitimate. He just doesn't feel right. He's trying. He works hard. What are you going to do? He just doesn't feel right."
Baker made a start at Class-A Fort Myers on Thursday to try and set up a return to Minnesota's rotation, but was only able to last 11 pitches. His disabled list stint to start this season was backdated to March 27 so Baker could return as soon as possible. But manager Ron Gardenhire isn't factoring Baker in right now.
"There's no thought really on him yet," Gardenhire said. "He has to pitch. He has to pitch first before we can start thinking about him in our rotation."
Without Baker, the Twins had hopes for Hendriks to fill a void in the rotation following a strong spring in which he went 3-1 with a 2.84 earned-run average. But he was shelved after going to the hospital on Friday with food poisoning.
Hendriks arrived in the Twin Cities on Monday after being released from the hospital earlier in the day. Despite the ordeal, Hendriks said he hasn't lost any weight and is feeling good. He plans to work out Tuesday while the team has an off-day.
He isn't sure when he will be slotted back into the rotation.
"I'm going to come to the field tomorrow, do some running and do some throwing and see how I recover," Hendriks said. "I didn't lose any weight, which is definitely a plus, which definitely takes a couple of days off the rehab. We'll see how it goes. I'm going to come in do some throwing and some running and go from there."
Gardenhire said the rotation is set for four days after Tuesday's day off and isn't sure when Hendriks would be put back in the rotation.
Marquis is still working his way back after missing time to be with his daughter, who was hurt in a bike accident. He has one more start planned for Double-A New Britain and could return to the Twins after building up his pitch count.
"Marquis is going to pitch Thursday again and should be close to 100 pitches," Ryan said. "So after he gets done, we'll see how he is and go from there with the roster."
With Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Anthony Swarzak and Blackburn lined up for the next four games; Gardenhire is waiting to see where Hendriks and Marquis will fit in.
"We've got to get them both here first," Gardenhire said. "We can't put the old cart before the horses there. We've got to get them both here. We have to see how everything goes the next start. We've got to get Liam here. I haven't seen him. So, we'll figure that out. That's the least of our worries. We'll get them slotted in and we'll figure out our pitching rotation, but first we've got to get them back here."
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