By Joe Christensen
FORT MYERS, FLA. — The Twins placed projected Opening Night starter Scott Baker on the 15-day disabled list this morning with right shoulder stiffness.
Francisco Liriano will start Monday’s opener against Seattle, with Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins following the next three games. There is word R.A. Dickey likely will start April 10 at Chicago, as the team’s No. 5 starter.
Baker, who signed a four-year, $15.25 million contract last month, threw only 58 pitches on Wednesday in a start against Class AAA Norfolk, tossing five scoreless innings.
The Twins also placed Joe Mauer (inflammation right sacroiliac joint) and Boof Bonser (rotator cuff surgery) on the 15-day disabled list today. Those were expected moves.
With Baker and Bonser on the DL, the Twins are down to 12 pitchers, with Brian Duensing and Philip Humber likely making the team as relievers.
The 12 pitchers: Liriano, Blackburn, Slowey, Perkins, Dickey, Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Luis Ayala, Craig Breslow, Humber and Duensing.
Baker, who went 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA in six spring training starts, last pitched in a Grapefruit League game on March 27, so he’s eligible to return from the 15-day DL on April 12.
Update: Justin Morneau said he tweaked something in the middle of his back with a swing during batting practice Tuesday, and it’s been stiff the past two days.
“It’s nothing I’m too concerned about,” he said. “Just don’t want it to be something that nags on when the season starts. … If this was Game No. 1 or Game No. 100, I’m sure I’d be out there.”
Morneau said he hopes to play in a minor-league game Friday or in the Twins’ final Grapefruit League game Saturday against Pittsburgh. That way, “it’s not a bunch of days off in a row,” Morneau said. “So we’ll see what happens.”
Regarding Baker, Morneau said, “It’s disappointing, but I talked to him, and he said they were just pushing him back [one start].”
Update: Baker said he has stiffness in the back of his shoulder. He felt more sore than usual after his start last Friday against Tampa Bay. Then, in his start Wednesday against Class AAA Norfolk, it became increasingly tough to get loose between innings.
There was no talk about putting him on the DL, however, until today, he said.
“It stinks,” he said. “The timing’s just not great. I would love to throw Opening Day, but that’s not the best thing for the team. And I could have done it. There’s no doubt in my mind. I kind of let them know that I can definitely pitch. Obvioiusly nobody can guarrantee that it’s going to get better, if I continue to pitch. It possibly could stay the same or get worse.”
Asked if he will miss just one start, Baker said, “I think so.” But he also said he will not be throwing until at least Saturday, when he’ll be re-evaluated.
“We haven’t got an exact timetable yet — what we’re shooting for, when I would start with the club — but hopefully I’ll just miss that one start,” he said.
Update: Obviously, the Twins decided to cut short Liriano’s outing today since he’ll be pitching the opener on three day’s rest. Liriano held the Red Sox to one run on three hits, with one walk and three strikeouts.
Update: Matt Tolbert replaced shortstop Nick Punto for the top of the fifth inning. Punto had gotten up slowly after lunging for a popup in left field by Mike Lowell in the fourth inning. Punto did start a 6-4-3 double play to end the Boston fourth, but I’ll check to see if he’s OK postgame. Otherwise, add him to the list.