MINNEAPOLIS Beforethe anesthesia kicked in, Scott Baker didn't know what he was about to endure.
Baker, Minnesota's best starting pitcher in 2011, went to see Dr. David Altchek in New York earlier this month to have his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow repaired. But when Baker woke up from surgery, he had a new ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, thanks to Tommy John surgery.
Baker said Dr. Altchek told him there was a 20 percent chance that the UCL would need to be replaced. It wasn't until doctors opened up Baker's elbow that the extent of the damage was truly known.
"I knew there was a chance, but I guess you never think about it. I guess you think you're never that guy to have Tommy John until you have it," Baker said Friday, the first time he addressed the media since having the surgery. "There was no definitive tearing or detachment but he said what he performed was called a pickup. Basically you pick up a pair of tweezers and see how loose the ligament is. And he said it was a black and white issue to him that the ligament was too loose. It was not a good ligament. That's probably, in his opinion, the reason why the tendon was unable to recover."
When Baker woke up still groggy from the anesthesia, he was understandably emotional when he heard the news that he had Tommy John surgery instead of the less invasive surgery he was anticipating.
"Once it wore off and I kind of came to, I was in the right frame of mind and I talked to the doctor and he explained to me what was going on I was O.K. with it," Baker said. "I guess the way he made it sound was if we were to go into here and repair the tendon and we would not have repaired the ligament, you can't make any guarantees but he was fairly certain that the ligament would have gone shortly after."
Baker has had elbow issues throughout his career and again had the problem flare up during spring training this year. A season ago, he was placed on the disabled list numerous times with a right flexor strain.Despite the discomfort, Baker has tried to pitch through it. But no matter what he did, no matter how much time he took off, something just wasn't right with his elbow."I knew I wasn't crazy," Baker said. "I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen."
With the originally scheduled surgery that would have prepared his flexor pronator tendon, Baker would have missed six months, meaning his 2012 season was done before he ever threw a pitch. With Tommy John surgery, however, the rehab process can range from nine months to a year. Baker said he'll remain in the Twin Cities to do his rehab. But with how long the entire rehab process takes, it means there's a chance Baker won't be ready for the start of next season, either.Where he pitches next year remains an uncertainty. The Twins have a club option on Baker for 9 million next season, but it's unlikely the team will pick it up given Baker's recent surgery. The 2012 season would have been considered a contract year for Baker, but he'll instead enter the offseason without his fate in his own hands."As far as contract status, gosh, why worry about it? There's nothing I can do about it," said Baker, who has spent his entire seven-year career with Minnesota. "You obviously think about it. I like being here, I like playing for the Twins. I mean, there's no guarantee that I'll throw another pitch for the Twins, but it's kind of all I know.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.