Juneau’s 100-mph man adjusting to new role at Double-A Akron
And he’s brought his famous fastball with him.
The 24-year-old rocket right-hander is with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks of the Cleveland Indians organization. He’s coming out of the bullpen for the first time in his career as coaches ease him back from Tommy John surgery and other injures.
Baker, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has pitched in seven games, posting an 0-1 record with 4.91 ERA in 7.1 innings.
The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s trusting the process. He’s yet to walk a batter, which was his Achilles heel in the past.
“I’m throwing strikes and getting ahead of counts, which is great,” Baker told Let’s Go Tribe. “I’m giving up a few more hits than I’m used to, but I’m getting out of innings with low pitch counts. I’m definitely happy. It’s been a long road to get here so I’m ecstatic with the results.”
Adjusting to life as a relief pitcher hasn’t been as easy as he thought. For example, the preparation is way different in terms of physical and physiological.
“I’m embracing it. I like hanging out in the bullpen and seeing it from a different perspective,” he said. “I’m enjoying it now and I’m still getting used to it. I’m talking to all the guys in the pen and picking their brains about getting in a different mindset. It’s coming along and I’m enjoying it.”
Once he heats up, Baker can throw the ball 100 mph.
“I did it in junior college once and in my first start of 2014 before I broke my leg,” he said. “I was told I was sitting 96-100 and then spring training before I had Tommy John. I was told I was mostly 96-100 all spring. That’s what the gun reads, so I’m gonna take it. I’ll claim it.”
Right now he’s sitting in the 96-97 range, which is still MLB quality, which is probably why the Indians have kept Baker on their 40-man roster for the last two years despite him not being on the field.
“I don’t know if it will fully come back,” Baker said, “but if it doesn’t, that’s fine. I’ve been through a lot and I still feel like 97 is good enough.”