With Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma locked in at the top of the rotation, the Seattle Mariners have one of the best one-two combinations in all of baseball heading into 2014. But the team must find arms to fill out the rotation if they hope to make a run at the playoffs this fall. While the team is flush with young options heading into Spring Training, it might be the health of veteran Scott Baker that determines the success of the Seattle rotation this season.
From 2008-2011, Baker was a solid starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, compiling a 46-28 record with a 3.92 ERA in 113 games. But then he blew out his elbow and was lost for the entire 2012 season before resurfacing with the Chicago Cubs briefly in 2013, earning a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings of work. Seattle added him in free agency this winter and will see what he can offer in Spring Training. Their hope is that he can regain his form from his time with the Twins and offer a solid veteran option for the back end of the rotation.
The Seattle rotation is filled with potential as young pitchers get their shots at cracking the starting rotation. Taijuan Walker is expected to get his permanent promotion to the majors this spring and will likely end up in the rotation while familiar names like Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, and Blake Beaven lead a young group who will be battling for starts this spring. But all of them are relatively untested at the major-league level and having a solid veteran presence would help solidify the rotation when the young arms suffer their ups and downs of youth.
While Baker won’t be breaking bats as a top-line ace, getting him into the back end of the rotation would be a huge boost to the Seattle rotation in 2014. As Spring Training gets underway, we will see what Baker has left in the tank and if he can contribute a little veteran savvy to a rotation stocked full of youthful potential.