Well, it turns out that the "Scott Baker can be good, if he only gets healthy" train is permanently parked at the station. Baker has scar tissue on his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow, and has chosen to have it "cleaned up," a surgery that will take six months of rehabilitation and cost him the 2012 season.
The righthander dealt with the same injury last year, making two trips to the disabled list in July and August with a flexor strain. He chose not to have surgery then, but as quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press by John Shipley, said today that "When it comes to a point where your velocity's not there, and you don't have the ability to finish pitches like you know you're capable of doing, then something's got to be done."
Unfortunately, this seems to be another in a long line of losses for the Twins' training staff, which has a track record of extending injuries. What started as a mid-July flexor strain means that Baker will make just five starts after July 1 of 2011 for the Twins. (Presumably he'll go to Baltimore and be completely healed in a week.)
Baker is in the last year of a four-year, $15.25 million contract. The club has an option for 2013, but at $9.25 million, would be nuts to pick it up. The righthander battled injuries over the life of the contract, pitching 200 innings just once and going 35-24 with a 4.08 ERA over the past three seasons.
Liam Hendriks, who missed his first scheduled start with food poisoning, would presumably slot into the rotation as the fifth starter. He and Anthony Swarzak will both stay with the team until Jason Marquis returns, with one of the two staying as the starter.
For the Twins, it's yet another terrible blow to the starting staff. The team was counting on Baker to be one of its top three starters, perhaps even the best pitcher on the team, and his loss means that even more pressure is heaped on a rotation that's already struggling.
Ultimately, this is not good news for Baker, the Twins, or the much-maligned medical staff.