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October 9, 2003

Dusty Baker


Q. Dusty, is there a turning point that you can pinpoint from when Sammy's season went from sort of the bad of the cork incident and the injury to the good of what the second half ended up to be?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. I know he got hot there, I think it was in August, I think, late July, early August, I don't remember. He hit some home runs. Yeah, after the All-Star break, I think that break might have helped him. Going to the All-Star team might have helped him there. Let him see his family and hang out in Miami for a few days. Yeah, I think that might have helped him. Did we open up here after All-Star break? Yeah, so that made it even better. That gave him six days, almost a week at home. Yeah, I think that might be it.

Q. Can you talk about how some of the Marlins hitters have been a challenge to your pitchers?

DUSTY BAKER: They can hit. They're a challenge because they can hit. I can tell by their approaches on certain balls that they trust the game plan of the hitting coach who's done an outstanding job over here. They use the whole field. For young hitters, they're pretty smart hitters for young hitters. And I think a lot of it has to do with their own aptitude, and the fact that they trust their batting coach, Bill Robinson.

Q. Dusty, can you clarify Zambrano's situation right now, whether he might be used in relief the next couple of days, and whether using Prior, Wood on three days' rest is a change in philosophy for you?

DUSTY BAKER: No, it's 1-1, we're not in that situation yet. You can't come up with a change of philosophy until required to do so. Right now nothing has changed, actually.

Q. Sammy is again staying at home during this stretch here in Miami, and said he's got a lot of relatives coming in. How do you feel about that? Is that possibly good for him, possibly a distraction for him?

DUSTY BAKER: Anytime you can go to your house and sleep in your own bed -- and, plus, at the hotel, you can be found in a hotel. Like if I go to my house, and I don't want to be found, I just don't answer the phone. I think it's great. Every town we go in there's somebody almost from that town. My only rule is leave me a number in case I've got to reach you. When I'm in San Francisco, I stay at my house. If you were traveling and you go back to Chicago, you stay in your house, you don't stay in a hotel after being in a hotel all year long. I don't think it's a stretch, and I think it's a wonderful thing for a guy to stay at home, because you feel most comfortable at home. So, no, I think -- shoot, sometimes I wish I had a house down here now, rather than staying in a hotel.

Q. What does Kenny Lofton bring to your team as a leadoff man and as a player on several winning teams in the past?

DUSTY BAKER: Kenny brings a lot. He's one of the premiere leadoff men that's played the game, he might be the best, and has been for a long time. He brings speed. He knows how to hit. He knows how to play the game. Plus he brings another intangible that most people don't see, is the fact of how smart he is, and how much he studies and how much he helps and sort of forces other guys to study. You come in our clubhouse,

and at any given moment you might see him watching videos of who's pitching or their move to first base to help them steal bases. Kenny Lofton is a very intelligent man, and he's what you call a ballplayer to me, when I say a guy is a ballplayer, that means there's nothing he can't do on the field to help your team win.

Q. A lot of your players are obviously confident to have Kerry going tomorrow. Is there, besides the tangible factor of how good a pitcher he is, do you feel there's an intangible of how your players feel so confident?

DUSTY BAKER: Certainly anytime you've got one of your big guns going, guys are going to feel more confident. It was the same under Steve Carlton when he pitched. They called it win day. Naturally you feel confident. You feel confident with Schilling on the mound, you feel confident when Randy Johnson is on the mound. And you feel more confident when guys of that caliber are out there pitching. I'm sure the Dodgers feel more comfortable when Kevin Brown is out there. So, yeah, we all feel confident.

Q. When the stage gets bigger like this, do great players need to step up their game, just in terms of their legacy and how they're going to be remembered? I think of Sammy starting to pick it up.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Sammy picking it up is easier than just picking it up. Quite honestly, the whole focus isn't on Sammy. I don't care who picks it up. I'd love for it to be Sammy. But the last couple of games it's been Alex Gonzalez. So as long as somebody picks it up. Hopefully we have quite a few guys. It's actually a matter of concentration and focus and discipline. And that's what our club has done as a whole.

Q. I was going to ask you the same question about Pudge Rodriguez, how he's taken over both in the first and second round. Can you comment on his level right now?

DUSTY BAKER: Pudge, this has been his game, he's been one of the best, not only catchers, but hitters at the same time. I know when I was in the National League -- I've always been -- he was in the American League. I'd look in the top 10 and he'd be there all the time. Plus Pudge is one of the few guys on the Marlins that's been to postseason a number of times. So this is nothing new for him, and I'm sure he's elated to get back in that situation. Because in Texas he was there almost annually with the Texas Rangers, and they probably would have been in the World Series a number of times, except for the fact the Yankees kept beating them. Pudge is something else.

Q. I'm just curious, they call it win day in Philly. What do you call it when Prior and Wood pitch, and how much do they feed off each other?

DUSTY BAKER: We haven't named it that yet, because they're not there yet. Steve Carlton, when he had a win day, he had 257-some wins. We haven't called it anything yet. In a few years hopefully we'll come up with something.

Q. Can you talk about the difference for your offense facing Mark Redman after facing Beckett and Penny and how hard they pitch versus Redman?

DUSTY BAKER: Redman is more of a finesse pitcher. He shut us out here last time. He can pitch. He won 14 games or 15 games, whatever it was. It's a little different. It's a lot different, actually. But we just have to make the adjustments to whoever is pitching against us.

Q. Can you talk about becoming a Cub now and the little things that you've done to people feel important? You invite Ryne Sandberg and his wife on the trip. You've made Ron Santo feel like he was in the Hall of Fame as a Cub. Do you just feel like you're a part of this team for longer than you really have been?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. I feel like it, because a lot of the guys that I invite are guys that I've known for a long, long time. Billy Williams, our birthdays are on the same day. When I was playing, I was a young rookie and he'd invite me over to his house, and I'd invite him over to mine. We'd say happy birthday, our same birthday, Billy and Butler. I remember I talked to Fergie (Jenkins) and Kessinger, and used to hang out with Peppy and Billy North when I was a kid. So it was like something that actually -- just try to get some tradition and pride of being on the Cubs. And I got that from the Dodgers, actually, because in Dodgers Spring Training there's always Koufax and Newcombe and Campanella, and have to rub shoulders with those guys and you feel like you're a part of the family. And in San Francisco we did the same thing. McCovey would be there sometimes. Mike McCormick would come in to help our left-handers. Of course, Willie Mays was there, also Jim Ray Hart. So we made a conscious effort. And we're going to try to get more guys come into Spring Training, not only be there, but also be a part of it but share their knowledge and wisdom with the young guys.

Q. Dusty, a lot of so-called experts envision this series as being low scoring. Are you surprised at all the offense so far and do you feel now it's back here, we might see those low scoring games?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'm supposed to be one of the so-called experts, I was wrong, too. So you just don't know what's going to happen. I mean the ball was flying out of our park. I haven't seen the ball fly out on consecutive days all year long like that. This is a little bit different. The park is a lot bigger. You might not see as many home runs, but you'll probably see more doubles and triples, because they have tremendous gaps out there, and the field plays extremely fast. I don't know what to anticipate. No matter what, I don't care if we win.

Q. How impressed have you been with the way Sammy has handled this season mentally with all the different things he's had? Are you surprised about how fans have reacted to him, both positively and negatively?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'm very impressed on how he's handled it, big time. He missed a lot of games and still had an excellent season. He missed 24 games and still had had an outstanding season. Sammy has raised the bar so high for himself. When you have a couple of 60s or 70s (home run seasons). I'm very impressed with how he's handled it. As far as the fan reaction, to him both positively and negatively. I see the human element of people wanting to believe he was telling the truth and also the human element that people like Sammy. On the other hand, there's always somebody that's not going to let you forget whatever crime you committed. He admitted he committed a crime, unknowingly, but it's still a crime. And he went ahead on with his business. And I thought we were a society when you commit your crime and pay your time, you're supposed to be forgiven of it. But evidently not by some people.

Q. When you talk about the big guns you have, it seems like the National League, up and down, Marlins and Cubs, the big guns are all young guns. Also, you have young pitchers here. Whereas when you look in the American League, you see John Burkett and Wells and Clemens. Does it seem like a dramatic, drastic change between the National League pitchers that are still here and the American League pitchers?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. The American League for years has been more of an offensive League. And you see the extra costs of a DH, you see many of the high-price sluggers are in the American League. And the National League, maybe being more of a low scoring, more of a -- I don't know if it's more of a pitching league, but the Yankees sign free agents. They sign free agents that are automatically older than my guys already, they're going to be older from the beginning, and they're going to be more established. A lot has to do with how organizations have drafted. You look at the draft, so many players at the top are mostly pitchers, and everybody is complaining about finding position players. But there are a lot of good, young pitchers out there, and there is going to be some great pitching here in the next decade coming up.

Q. When you go from a ballpark where the ball's been jumping out for a couple of days, and now you come to a place that's really been a pitcher's park, do you wait as much for a three-run homer, does the approach change?

DUSTY BAKER: The approach change by me or by the hitters?

Q. Both.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, by the hitters, you've got to hit the way you hit, you know what I mean? You've got to hit the ball first, you can't guide it, you can't say I'm going to hit this ball out, you've got to hit the ball. And from a pitcher's standpoint you've got to pitch your same game at the same time. This park is more conducive to speed than our park is. And the Marlins have more speed than we have. They've got more speed than anybody in the world. So you can change your philosophy, but if you don't have speed, you can't create speed. And they built their team around that.

Q. What did you see in Borowski that made you think closer?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it was actually -- like he said, it was by default, actually, because our closer was Alfonseca, and he pulled a muscle in Spring Training, he was out the first month or so, and the first -- I didn't know it was going to be Borowski, but I talked to Larry Rothschild and he said he knows Borowski has the guts to handle it. He can throw almost every day, he throws strikes. And he took the job. Because I had every intention on giving the job back to Alfonseca, but Borowski was doing so well, you couldn't take it away from him. And Alfonseca, when he came back, he wasn't doing as well as he or we would have liked for him to do at that time. So sometimes you go into Spring Training, like I always said, you look for a surprise person, and this year our surprise, our very, very pleasant surprise was Borowski.

End of FastScripts...

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