9/3/2013 7:21 P.M. ET
With Minors season over, Baker wondering what's next
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Scott Baker made his final Minor League rehab start on Monday, and he felt positive about finally getting into the sixth inning of a game. But the right-hander, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, still isn't sure what's next, and neither are the Cubs.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the team was still evaluating Baker's situation and trying to determine the next step. Starting for the Cubs in the final month is apparently not in the plans.
"At one time, we figured he'd be back maybe at the All-Star break, and he obviously had a setback," Sveum said. "It's something you want to evaluate for next year, because we did spend a lot of time and effort getting him back."
Baker signed a $5.5 million contract this season, and had hoped to return for the second half of the season. In his outing on Monday for Class A Kane County, he threw 80 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. However, the velocity is not where he'd like.
"For me, it's about getting outs," Baker said. "If you can get outs, who cares? If you can't get outs, maybe that's part of the reason why you can't get outs. My velocity is not where I want it yet. Thankfully, I know how to pitch a little bit and get guys out.
"I really, truly feel that the more I throw, the better that will get," he said. "Let's be realistic, it's been a long time since I've pitched competitively every fifth day. It's not for lack of effort. It's just a timing thing. The more I do it, the better I'll be."
Now that the Minor League teams have completed their regular seasons, the right-hander isn't sure what will come next.
"Nobody's told me, either way," Baker said. "[Not starting] is news to me, if that's the case. I understand there are guys who have come over in trades, and there's a lot of guys here with a limited amount of innings to throw. I get it. I get why they would say that.
"Of course, I do want to start, whether it's here or there or anywhere, because that's what I've always done," he said. "I don't have a lot of experience doing anything else, and I enjoy starting. That is what I want to do."
Sveum said Baker didn't need to throw a simulated game to show the Cubs anything.
"The velocity isn't there that he would like to see or we'd like to see," Sveum said. "The fact of the matter is, he's been able to go every five days and bounce back and no problems."
That's good because it shows his elbow is healthy. What about next year?
"I really haven't thought about next year," Baker said, "because there's a lot that needs to happen this year to set up next year."
Bryant, Daytona top Dunedin in Game 1
CHICAGO -- Corey Black, acquired from the Yankees in the Alfonso Soriano deal, struck out seven over five innings and Kris Bryant smacked a two-run single in a five-run sixth inning to lead Daytona to a 6-1 win over Dunedin in Game 1 of the Florida State League best-of-three North championship series on Tuesday night.
In the first inning, Daytona's Pin-Chieh Chen doubled and scored on a wild pitch. Daytona added five more runs in the sixth, sending nine batters to the plate. A run scored on a bases-loaded walk to Zeke DeVoss, an error by second baseman Jon Berti, Bryant's single, and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Giansanti.
This series is a rematch of the first round of the 2011 playoffs, which Daytona won in three games.
Class A Boise also opened its best-of-three Northwest League South Division playoff series on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over Salem-Keizer. Danny Lockhart hit an RBI double in the first and scored on Yasiel Balaguert's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Balaguert added an RBI single in the seventh.
Paul Blackburn gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings, striking out eight, for the win. Zack Godley pitched two innings for the save.
Double-A Tennessee finished its regular season Monday with a 4-3 loss to Chattanooga, and opens the playoffs on Thursday against Birmingham in a best of five North Division Championship Series.
On Monday, Tennessee's Christian Villanueva hit his 19th home run, a solo shot, and on Tuesday, the infielder was named the Southern League's hitter of the week. He paced the Smokies offense with a .304 average (7-for-23), belting three home runs and driving in six. All three of his home runs came in the team's final five-game series against Chattanooga.
Top prospect Javier Baez led all of Minor League baseball with 111 RBIs between Daytona and Tennessee this season. His 37 home runs were tied for second, three behind the leader.
• Third baseman Kris Bryant and right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson were named the Cubs' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the month for August, respectively.
Both play at Class A Daytona.
Bryant, 21, batted .381 with 16 runs scored, nine doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 24 August games between short-season Class A Boise and Daytona. He compiled a .438 on-base percentage and a .762 slugging percentage, good for a 1.199 OPS that was second-highest in all of Minor League baseball.
The No. 2 pick overall in the June First-Year Player Draft, Bryant combined to bat .336 with 14 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 32 RBIs in 36 games between Rookie League Mesa, Boise and Daytona. The third baseman also committed six errors.
Johnson, 22, went 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA (2 ER in 17 2/3 IP) in four August games (three starts) for Daytona. He struck out 22 and held opponents to a .186 batting average. In his first full pro season, Johnson combined to go 11-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 23 games (21 starts) between Class A Kane County and Daytona. He had 124 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings.
The right-hander was a sandwich-round pick (43rd overall) in the 2012 Draft.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.