PHOENIX – Scott Baker was thrilled to be pitching in front of fans for the first time since having elbow-reconstruction surgery. He knows it could be quite some time before he's doing it on a regular basis.
Baker faced six batters in his first start since 2011, in a Cubs split squad's 12-6 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
"It was exciting. I threw some decent pitches, but I also was a bit jumpy and got the ball up," he said.
Baker had been a reliable starter after being taken by the Twins in the second round of the 2003 draft. He had a 63-48 record in seven seasons, and was Minnesota's opening day starter in 2010.
But after he missed all last season, the Minnesota Twins did not pick up the $9.25 million option on Baker's contract for 2013. The Cubs signed him as a free agent to a one-year deal in November for $5.5 million with another $1.5 million in performance bonuses.
Baker hopes to be ready to join the Cubs near the one-year anniversary of his surgery on April 17, but that possibility remains uncertain.
"There are plenty of guys who have come back in one year," he said. "That (decision to join the club) will be up to the medical staff. I made a step. That's what you have to do regardless of surgery. I want to be able to start every fifth day."
The A's hit four home runs overall, including two late-inning two run shots by Adam Rosales. Josh Donaldson also hit a three-run homer.
The play of Oakland's middle infielders this spring has given manager Bob Melvin a pleasant problem as he tries to decide which ones to keep on the opening day roster.
Eric Sogard has been the hottest hitter of late. He was 4 for 4 on Sunday and is nine for his last 12, including five doubles, in his last four games. Jemile Weeks had a hit and played nice defense at second base after being slowed by a bruised shoulder and Andy Parrino had two hits. And don't forget Jed Lowrie, hitting .333 with 10 hits after being acquired in a trade with Houston on Feb. 4.
"Those guys are playing well. It's good to see. That's what competition is all about," Melvin said. "Sogard is really seeing the ball. It's like a beach ball right now."
NOTES: The A's optioned INF Grant Green and OF Michael Taylor to Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday. The team also reassigned five non-roster invitees to its minor league camp. ... Brent Lillibridge and Dave Sappelt homered for the Cubs. ... Cubs INF Javier Baez collected two more hits, putting his average at .333. He had hit four homers in his previous two games, including three on three straight pitches. ... Cubs 3B Ian Stewart is due to have a second MRI on Monday and his strained left quadriceps has kept him out of action all spring.