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October 20, 2002

Dusty Baker


THE MODERATOR: Dusty, would you first give your line-up.

DUSTY BAKER: Same line-up as yesterday except Dunston is DH-ing in the ninth spot instead of Shinjo.

Q. Can you talk about the importance of Reggie Sanders getting back on track?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, Reggie is a big part of our offense and defense and speed on the bases. It's very important. We all know Reggie is hopefully going to be a big determining factor in this World Series. Here's a guy that hit 20 home runs and drove in 85 runs for us. I think he was probably our third highest RBI producer, which is a big man in your line-up. So it's very important for Reggie to get back on track.

Q. Could you go over when you were here in '89, when the earthquake hit and a sense of what it was like.

DUSTY BAKER: Was there a tremor a couple weeks ago?

Q. During the season, I guess.

DUSTY BAKER: This year? We're so used to them, we don't even pay attention to them really unless they're big ones. In 1989, I was actually drinking a cup of coffee in the cafeteria in the clubhouse. Just sort of weird things started -- they didn't really shake, they sort of flowed. It looked like jello, you know how jello shakes, you would imagine that the cement almost looked liquid. Right away I thought about -- my daughter was doing a book report, they were having earthquake awareness week at her school. She told me to get under a desk or something, or stand in a door well. I went and stood in the door well, tried not to panic, stopped shaking. Then I went outside to the field which was quite a long wways that time in Candlestick. Next, you want to see your family when you get outside, see if they're safe. It was just sort of eerie, sort of weird to see that much cement flowing. Then, later, you get a little alarmed or scared because you imagine -- try to imagine what that would have been like if all that cement had come down on us.

Q. I know it's not illegal, but does it bother you, within your pitcher's mind, when Tim Salmon is doing this college behavior of swinging the bat and timing the pitches while the pitcher is pitching? Does it bother you?

DUSTY BAKER: While he's on the on-deck circle? It doesn't bother me, I used to do the same thing. How can I be bothered by something I used to do? Just don't like him too close. If you watch Albert Pujols and some of the guys on the Cardinals, it was like they're almost at-bat sometimes, they were right behind -- almost behind the catcher. Real close. No, it doesn't bother me. Like I said, I was a hitter and I used to do the same thing.

Q. During the introductions yesterday when you and Mike had a chance to kind of shake hands and hug, you had a moment there where you kind of said some things. Just wondering, what did you say to each other? What was the moment like to be at the spot together?

DUSTY BAKER: The moment, it was great to be there with a former teammate and with a guy that you really respect, like, and admire. I don't remember exactly what I said to Mike. We probably said, "Good luck," like you always say. Not too much luck, but good luck (smiling). And I just gave him a nod. Scioscia knows we're going to come at him, and he's going to come at us.

Q. You got a lot of innings from your starters this year. How much do you think that helps the bullpen stay strong at this time of year? Also, the second question, what was the biggest key to Felix Rodriguez's turnaround in the second half?

DUSTY BAKER: I think that helps a lot, keeping your bullpen strong. You have to have a starting rotation that can go deep in ball games first before you can keep them strong. I know I was maligned years ago, I think by Bobby Valentine or somebody for overusing my bullpen, but at the time, I didn't have the starters I have now. You hope your starters are in great shape, you try to condition your guys like that, to thinking about going the distance versus just five and fly, or seven and a quality start. I remember especially in the case of like Kirk Rueter, he was a guy that would get to 80, 85 pitches a couple years ago and he'd be through. But he started training even harder, conditioning himself, mentally and physically. Now he's capable of going to 100, 110 which, in his case, is another two or three innings possibly. So I think that's big if you can get your starters to go deep into the ball game. Did I answer your second question?Probably the turning point in Felix was when his finger got well. He was having trouble with his finger, he was throwing hard, but he was having trouble locating and having trouble with his control. He was walking people, which isn't Felix Rodriguez. I told him what my mom and dad told me years ago, especially if something is wrong with your fingers, I brought in a couple lemons and told him to stick his finger in lemons and sleep with it overnight and it would drain the pain and soreness out. He said he did it. I don't know if he did it or not. He said he felt great later.

Q. You've done very well on the road in this postseason. The visiting team has won almost as many games as the home team. Does home field advantage mean anything in the postseason?

DUSTY BAKER: Home field advantage means a lot. I wish we were playing four in our place and three in theirs. But in order to have a good road record, I think a lot of it depends on if you can jump the opposition early and score first because you have the first at-bat, which we've been doing a lot of. Plus, you have to have a good bullpen to play -- to stop them at the bottom of the ninth. That's where Robb Nen comes in. That bottom of the ninth, at home, you can just play for top of the ninth then go on home. On the road, you have to stop them in the bottom of the ninth. That last inning is usually the toughest inning. That's the last three outs, the last breath of anything is hard to take away.

Q. Barry Bonds mentioned last night he felt getting past the Braves was getting past his past season ghosts a little bit. Do you feel like you've got any postseason ghosts and do you feel like you're past them yet?

DUSTY BAKER: No. I don't think I have any postseason ghosts. The only ghosts I probably have is in '81, another reason I always want to get back to the World Series and win, was the fact that I didn't contribute in '81 because I had got into -- John was probably there -- I got in a fight with some Expo fans after the game and I couldn't grip the bat. I told Lasorda, he gave me a bunch of kind words for getting in the fight. I called my dad. My dad was like, "I told you, boy, about being so wild." So I wanted to get back, because I went to see the doctor the morning of the first game of the World Series, and he told me I needed six to eight weeks to heal my hand. So, I told Tommy I couldn't play, and Tommy begged me, he said, "Dusty, we have to have you out there, even if you can't be yourself." I didn't take batting practice, I used DMS, soaking my hand in ice all night, trying to get my hand well, I ended up getting operated on. That's probably my ghost, when you've been told something all your life by your father, then you end up doing exactly what he told you not to do, one of those things.

Q. Why did you go to Shawon Dunston today?

DUSTY BAKER: I went to Shawon because he's had pretty good success against Kevin Appier, three for six with a home run, plus a better low-ball hitter. Also, Kevin Appier is better against lefties than righties. He throws a lot more splits against lefties, if any against righties. So, I went with Shawon Dunston today.

Q. David Bell is so steady with the glove. When did you realize how good a defensive player he was? And what does it mean to your ballclub to have somebody like that on third?

DUSTY BAKER: Actually, I was told Ron Fairly, what a great fielder he was in spring training. Ron had watched him in Seattle and he had told me what a very good ball player he was, that he would never complain, he can bat leadoff, second, ninth in Seattle; that he has excellent hands, knows where to play, probably one of the most heads-up players he's seen in modern times. That's a pretty high compliment, to me, coming from a guy of Ron Fairly's stature, who's seen some great ball players. You just start paying attention and you watch and you just see how he is and a lot of times you don't even know he's there, because he's so steady and he has a magnificent glove, rarely throws the ball away. He gave us much needed stability since Billy Miller left, we tried a number of guys on third base on the left side of our infield to go along with Rich Aurilia, who's very steady over there.

Q. What will your approach be to Appier? You had good success against him last year when he was with the Mets. He said he wasn't sure how he would handle your batters today.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'm not sure either then. Main thing about Appier is you have to make him throw strikes. He's not going to give into you. He's much like -- he throws sort of like Greg Maddux, near strikes and hitting his strikes takes something off, mix it up-and-down and in and out. So our approach is to basically make him throw us quality strikes and hit our pitches versus hit his pitches.

Q. How is the Anaheim crowd with the loudness? A little different from the summer interleague play that you played? Are you able to communicate with the outfielders in the field with all that noise?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a very good question. It's a totally different place. I haven't seen this much red since St. Louis, or the old Cincinnati Reds stadium, they changed their uniform colors. It is extremely loud. The people are into it. It is difficult to communicate to our fielders. So, especially Benito, he has the catcher's mask on, so I have to wave to J.T. or to Rich Aurilia in order to get his attention because he can't hear me. I had -- somebody broke it -- I had Shinjo bring me one of those megaphones they use in Japan, those clackers, because it happened once I think someplace else, Chicago or someplace, he couldn't hear me. So I had the megaphone, but I didn't think the umpires would go for that too much. In Japan, it's cool. Over here, I don't know if they are gonna go for that (laughter).

Q. Great lead in for the question I was going to ask, which is how you get along with Shinjo, how you manage him and how you communicate with him. Do you use a translator?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes, we use a translator but Shinjo understands, like most people that go to a foreign country, end up understanding more than you're able to converse. He understands what you're saying. We do use a translator, it's made it a lot easier. Shinjo is a quality person. A quality ballplayer. I think he's helped us quite a bit. I think he's going to get better and better as time goes on, as he learns the league, as he learns the pitchers in the league. So he's been a welcome addition to our club, plus all the little kids in our clubhouse, they all love Shinjo.

Q. Why?

DUSTY BAKER: Why? I don't know. My son loves him. Maybe they like the way he stands. They love his wristbands. You look at our kids in the dugout, they all got Shinjo wristbands on. He's very good with the kids. To me, that's a sign of -- kids usually don't lie. They'll show you basically their feelings are pretty right on about a person most of the time.

Q. Is there anything the players can do to survive the warning track? What can be done?

DUSTY BAKER: Change the warning track, only thing I can think of. It's old. Some of it has waffled, some of it has repairs on it. I'm sure initially it probably wasn't as bad as it is now. It's very slick. I don't know what can be done. I asked J.T., he has plastic cleats on, so plastic on plastic equals on your butt, like yesterday. So I asked him about steel cleats. He said some of the players on the Angels told him guys have slipped even with steel cleats. I don't mean to spend the Angels' money, but maybe next year they can change it.

End of FastScripts...

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