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Scott Baker's Season Ends With Surgery

Scott Baker needs surgery and the Twins lose yet another key player due to injury.
Scott Baker needs surgery and the Twins lose yet another key player due to injury.

Scott Baker will have surgery to repair his flexor pronator tendon in his right (pitching) elbow and it is going to keep him from playing in the 2012 season. The examination on Wednesday revealed that Baker had a tear in the tendon and Dr. David Altcheck will perform the surgery.

Let's not sugar coat this, it feels like the Twins screwed this one up. The Twins were able to detect the initial injury last year partly because when there is a strain in the muscle it usually results in sharp pain. The proof was in the pudding as well with Baker stating on Wednesday that this was the same tendon strain that put him on the DL twice in 2011. The pain did subside in the offseason, so it's not like it was a no-brainer decision to have the surgery. Obviously, the Minnesota med staff felt that surgery wasn’t the proper move back in the offseason. Oops.

Some other details of the injury after the jump:

The best comparison of how to correctly handle this injury was exhibited by the Phillies in 2009. Brad Lidge also needed surgery to repair his flexor pronator tendon in November 2009. Lidge was able to make his debut for the 2010 season in April for the Phils even though he also had meniscus surgery on his knee in January 2010. While Lidge hasn’t exactly had a clean bill of health since, none of his laundry list of injuries involve recurring problems with the repaired muscle in his elbow. He’s dealt with more knee issues, shoulder ailments, and tendonitis in his biceps, but again nothing in the elbow.

The really bad news for Baker is he has a $9 million club option for next season and one would be inclined to think that the Twins would not pick up that option. This doesn’t rule out that he’ll be with the Twins for 2013, it’s just certainly not going to be at $9 million. Baker is getting paid $6.5 million this year.

Anatomy lesson time. So what in the Wide World of Sports is a flexor pronator tendon? It is a tendon (connects muscle to bone) which works with the pronator teres muscle. That muscle is responsible for turning the arm from the palm up position to the palm down one. The pronator teres also runs from the medial part of the elbow to the radius (forearm bone on the thumb side) and it allows that bone to rotate. Basically, when a person turns his/her hand from either palm up to palm down (aka pronate) or palm down to palm up (supinate) the radius is the only bone moving. Go ahead and try it! Anyway, the point is that Baker's potential problem from a pitch selection standpoint would likely be with his slider for the extra force applied to the elbow's medial side to get extra rotation on the ball, or what many people will call "snapping one off." Baker does throw his slider quite a bit as example by the close to 30 percent of the time he used it in his last three quality starters last season. That should be something that scouts will be watching closely next year. As for the surgery, the rate of success is pretty high and it doesn’t figure to hinder Baker once it’s behind him.Plus, Brad Lidge, who's best pitch is his slider, hasn't seen an enormous dropoff in the effectiveness of that pitch. Every injury is different though and it's a bit naive to draw conclusions on a small sample size.

Switching gears to fantasy, I think Jose Canseco could probably break down this scenario for redraft leagues. He’s a cut for owners in even the deepest AL-only leagues. Even though it’s a 6-month rehab, there’s no reason to stash him unless you have unlimited DL spots. As far as next year goes, he might be an interesting candidate to grab in the late rounds. As alluded to earlier, there's a good chance he comes back strong from the surgery and could win some games while keeping his ERA at a respectable level. Especially if he goes to a team that can win some games.

The replacement is likely to be Jason Marquis. Even though he wasn’t terrible in the NL, he’s likely to struggle a bit in the American League Central. There are other options such as Anthony Swarzak, but fantasy owners in only AL-only leagues should even consider grabbing him.

Thanks for reading!