Baker will take it slow in comeback from surgery

Coming off Tommy John procedure last April, Cubs righty pleased with progress

MESA, Ariz. -- Scott Baker threw about 40 pitches at 70 percent effort on Tuesday, the first workout day for Cubs pitchers and catchers, but the right-hander will be "babied" this spring in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, manager Dale Sveum said.

Baker has been encouraged by how his arm feels heading into camp in his first season with the Cubs.

"I feel I'm much farther along than I was at this point last year," he said. "It was such a battle to get ready for last year's Spring Training. Sometimes I think when you're healthy, you're healthy, and it's allowed me to prepare for the season at a much greater capacity than I've had in the past couple years and it's exciting."

Last April, Baker had been scheduled to have surgery on his flexor pronator tendon, but when doctors did the surgery, they decided to repair the ligament, and the pitcher underwent reconstructive elbow surgery. Pitchers normally take 12 to 18 months to recover from Tommy John surgery. Sveum would not commit to whether Baker will be ready for the first week of the regular season.

"We're not going to put a timetable on it," Sveum said Tuesday. "We're going to ease him into it and see how it works."

The Cubs do have depth, so they can afford to give Baker more time. He has been throwing since mid January and was looking forward to reestablishing himself following the surgery.

"It's just a matter of getting back into the routine and getting back into the 'pitch ability' part of it and getting back to facing hitters," he said. "That's the biggest test for me because I haven't done it for so long. As far as health, I feel great."

But he's not quite 100 percent.

"I'm as far along as I'm supposed to be right now," Baker said. "I would say '100 percent' would be pitching in games, and obviously, there are no games to pitch in. That's part of the process ... using Spring Training to prepare for the season."