Cubs C Baker enjoys spotlight after first win
CHICAGO (AP) John Baker’s No. 12 was still in the pitcher’s column on Wrigley Field’s hand-operated scoreboard when the journeyman catcher returned to the ballpark on Wednesday.
It was almost too good to be true, so Baker used his cellphone to grab a picture of the unlikely scene.
”Just for myself,” he said. ”It felt pretty cool.”
The Cubs turned to Baker when they ran out of relievers in Tuesday night’s 4-3 marathon victory over the Colorado Rockies, and he pitched a scoreless 16th inning to get the win. He also slid home with the game-ending run on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly off Tyler Matzek.
The game lasted 6 hours, 27 minutes, setting a franchise record for both teams.
”Last night was great and it was a lot of fun and something we’ll always remember,” Baker said.
Of course, Rockies manager Walt Weiss had a different viewpoint.
”Three-hour losses are bad enough, but six and a half, I guess are twice as bad and then some,” he said before Colorado rebounded for 6-4 victory at Chicago on Wednesday night.
Baker said bench coach Brandon Hyde approached him about pitching when reliever James Russell was heading into the game for the 12th inning.
”I went, `Are you serious? Absolutely I’m willing to pitch,”’ Baker recalled. ”I’ll do whatever I have to do. As long as it means I get to get into the game and play baseball, man, throw me out there wherever, I’m in.”
Baker got Charlie Culberson to foul out to first before issuing a walk to Drew Stubbs. Christhian Adames then bounced into an inning-ending double play in his first major league game.
Baker started the bottom half with a walk and eventually came around on Castro’s fly ball to right. The Cubs said Baker was the first true position player to earn a win for the team since Fred Pfeffer in 1885.
”When I saw Baker warming up for them in the bullpen, my thought process was, `OK, we’re going to score a run or two,”’ Weiss said.
So much for that idea.
”Seventy-six mile an hour sinker and the 79 mile an hour yank four-seamer and I think it was a 67 mile an hour split-finger I attempted to throw,” Baker said when asked about his repertoire.
”People told me that I was tipping my slider, but I clearly wasn’t because I was throwing a split-finger,” Baker cracked, before jokingly bragging about his newfound credibility when handling pitchers.
The game took a toll on each team, especially the bullpens.
Adames was sent down before Wednesday night’s game to make room for right-hander Rob Scahill, who was promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Scahill, a Lombard native who grew up rooting for the crosstown White Sox, pitched a scoreless inning for the win in Colorado’s 10-inning victory.
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was out of the lineup due to soreness in his right ankle and left knee.
”I only got to play 12 innings and I can’t imagine playing 16,” Gonzalez said. ”It was one of the hardest games to play, especially with the weather, windy, and raining a little bit.”
The Cubs recalled left-hander Chris Rusin from Triple-A Iowa and sent right-hander Blake Parker to their top farm club. Parker pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday night and was long gone when Baker took the mound for his memorable performance.
”It was awesome,” the 33-year-old Baker said. ”I think that it’s one of those things, I mean when do you get a chance to do that ever?”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap