'Happy' with work since return, Baker eyes '14

'Happy' with work since return, Baker eyes '14

CHICAGO -- With his outing in the Cubs' 9-5 loss to the Braves on Friday afternoon, right-hander Scott Baker made his third and final start of the season following his return from Tommy John surgery.

The Cubs went to a six-man starting rotation when Baker became available to pitch, giving other starters some extra rest in between starts in the process. They have now reverted back to the five-man rotation for the remainder of the season.

Baker made his first start since 2011 on Sep. 8 against the Brewers, and over his first two outings, he allowed one run on five hits over 11 innings while walking one and striking out five.

Baker's start on Friday, however, was a rough one. He gave up five runs over four innings, including a three-run homer to Freddie Freeman that was preceded by back-to-back walks.

Baker -- who will be a free agent at season's end -- said he's pleased with the progress he made in his first big league action since the surgery.

"I was pretty happy, overall," he said. "I think a good, normal, progressive offseason, starting with a good amount of recovery and rest, is going to be crucial for me to get back to the pitcher that I was originally before surgery. I'm very happy I did get a chance to throw before the season was over."

Baker's velocity hasn't reached its normal peak from prior to the surgery, but Baker knows that will take time and said velocity isn't his highest priority.

"I think I'm still down a couple ticks, but velocity on the hierarchy for me, I think you've [first] got location, movement and then velocity," Baker said. "I think I know how to make the adjustments. But when you're running out there every fifth day, you're able to make that adjustment a little quicker. That's the name of the game: making the adjustments on the fly."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he thought Baker pitched well in his limited innings this season.

"He had two good starts," Sveum said. "[Friday] didn't go too well, but the assessment was getting on the mound against big league hitters. He's worked his butt off to deserve those chances, and he got out there three times and made the best of them."

Baker said after his start on Friday that he'd like to return to the Cubs next season.

"I think it's a wonderful place to play," Baker said. "We'll just see. There are a lot of things going on here, a lot of moving parts. I kind of feel like with these last few starts, there's less of a question mark about me next year than there was going into this year. ... Hopefully, whether it's the Cubs or other teams, [they] feel the same way."

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.