MESA, Ariz. -- A couple weeks after pulling back on a trade to add Dan Haren to the rotation, the Cubs signed rehabbing starter Scott Baker last November to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
"The reality is it's not exactly a buyers' market out there for pitching," president Theo Epstein said after the signing. "So you have to take your risks. ... We're very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker."
The Baker signing may still pay off, but the former Twins right-hander was shut down with elbow discomfort Tuesday after one 23-pitch outing on Sunday, leaving his status in limbo.
Baker, who underwent elbow reconstruction surgery last April 17, will be evaluated by team physician Stephen Gryzlo later this week. He said he was trying to be "optimistic and hope for the best," but added: "Obviously, any setback of any sort is not something you like to hear."
Baker said his arm stiffened up after Sunday's outing, in which he retired only one batter while giving up three hits, including a three-run homer, and two walks.
While Baker waits to find out how long he'll be out, the Cubs announced that another risky signing, third baseman Ian Stewart, would begin the season on the disabled list with a left quad strain. Stewart was non-tendered and re-signed for $2 million after the Cubs tried to sign Jeff Keppinger, who wound up with the White Sox.
Once again, it was not a "buyers' market" for third baseman last offseason, and Stewart was deemed a reasonable risk. He can still be released before Opening Day, saving the team $1.5 million.
But with a lack of depth at the position, the Cubs seem willing to gamble that Stewart, who is coming off wrist surgery, will be healthy enough to contribute at some point. Stewart played in one minor league game last Thursday before experiencing fluid build-up in the quad, shutting him down for the time being.
Every free agent signing is something of a risk, and neither Baker nor Stewart broke the bank. But if they can't get on the field to produce, they certainly can't be dealt in July for prospects, as Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson were last summer after signing similar one-year deals.
And with Matt Garza out until May, the Cubs' rotation is lacking depth once again. Manager Dale Sveum said rookie Chris Rusin could be in the mix as a rotation call-up, shortly before Rusin was hit hard by Texas at Hohokam Stadium.
Sveum said Baker "did everything (to get ready) and really did nothing to warrant this, getting shut down. Hopefully it's not that big and (he'll) continue (to rehab)."
Baker repeated the Cubs' mantra for any occasion something goes awry.
"At this point, it is what it is," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see and see what Doc (Gryzlo) has to say, and kind of re-assess things when he gets down here."
Stewart hasn't played in a Cactus League game this spring. He said he re-aggravated the quad during his minor league game last Thursday, and that he can hit and take grounders, but just can't run.
Stewart said "it doesn't feel like" it's been healing, despite the prolonged rest this spring.
"I know what it's like to play through pain," Stewart said. "That's what's hard about this. I can't get through that pain and play with it. It's just too much."
Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge will share third in Stewart's absence.
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