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October 14, 2021

Dusty Baker

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. Dusty, is Lance McCullers Jr. going to pitch in this Series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, we're still trying to decide that. He had an MRI. I think James covered that earlier. He had an mri, and so we just have to -- he is under further evaluation. We'll know hopefully by tomorrow.

Q. What are your options if he is unavailable to pitch?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, our options are, you know, who we have. We got Framber, GarcĂ­a. We got Urquidy, and, you know, Odorizzi. We do have options, but right now we're not going to call upon those options even though Framber is starting tomorrow, and we'll go from there.

Q. You don't have a Game 2 starter yet?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, we do. GarcĂ­a.

Q. Dusty, can you just share your thoughts on the Astros being in the ALCS for the fifth straight year and the opportunity the team has ahead of them?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean, this is a great opportunity for us. Especially, you know, we were there last year. It didn't have the same magnitude as it does now because, you know, baseball is almost back to being normal. And so we're glad we're opening at home. That last week of the season you just didn't know how important that was going to be for this home field advantage.

I know everybody was probably picking Tampa, but these guys are a very good team, a formidable team, and that's why you play the games, you know, because a lot of the predictors are wrong. And baseball is something that's hard to predict, but we've got a formidable foe coming in here. The guys know Cora. Cora knows us, and so it has the makings for a great series.

Q. Will you have Jake Meyers available in the series?

DUSTY BAKER: We're not sure about that either. I've got to talk to the trainers afterwards, see how he came out of it today. And so, again, I mean, we have a few question marks, but, you know, we've had question marks all year long, and so hopefully knock on wood that he is good for tomorrow.

Q. Dusty, do you foresee using Zack Greinke as you did in the previous series out of the bullpen, or could he potentially fill in as I starter for you?

DUSTY BAKER: He has not stretched out as a starter over the last month, so, you know, we're deciding which pockets are better for this guy and that guy. So we're still in the process of meeting and, you know, we don't have to announce our roster until tomorrow by 10:00 a.m. So like I said, we're still talking about things and we do have a few guys that are hurt that we're trying to figure out to take the best roster forward.

Q. Dusty, I know this is only two years for you with this infield, but can you speak to the success that those four guys have had over the last five years or so, and does it remind you of a certain infield that you were close to in the '70s?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean, they've almost been around as long as the infield that we had with the Dodgers. I mean, they were there when I got there, and some were there after I left from there. It's one of the best infields around, one of the best infields in history offensively and defensively. It really helps to have some guy beside you that you know his range, you know what he is capable of doing, you know his range on pop-ups, on ground balls. And so being familiar with the guy next to you is very, very important similar to like football. If you have the same front four and same linebackers, then you probably got a hell of a defense.

Q. Hey, Dusty. You took over this job in rather unique circumstances. Just wondering, when you first got the feel of the terrain, did you think back-to-back ALCS appearances were realistic?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. Yeah, I really did. With the personnel that they have, you know, health was always a question. After what these guys went through, you are always cognizant of the mental and spiritual condition of the club. But this is extremely strong, close-knit group of guys, and they lean on each other for support.

These guys take a lot of pride in winning, and especially the guys that have been here for a while. They've been through a couple of back-to-back 100-loss seasons, and they like the feeling of winning and the feeling of being on top. And they think that they're supposed to win no matter how the series starts or the outcome.

You saw, like, last year against Tampa Bay, I mean, we lost the first three games against Tampa Bay, and then took it down to Game 7. So these guys weren't overly concerned. It would be different had they not been together that long. It would have been different had they not had the amount of success, because you know success breeds success, and these guys are used to being successful.

Q. On another matter, you've dealt with plenty of players in their free agent year, high-profile guys and free agency approaching. How do you think Correa has dealt with that attention and scrutiny?

DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah. I think he has dealt with it great. You can't do anything about four, five months in advance. You can only play today. And I was in that situation myself, and you don't worry about the money. You just perform, and everything else will take care of itself. If you perform, you do the job, then everything else will follow after that.

I'm telling you, Carlos has done an outstanding job because I've seen a bunch of guys in their free agent year really can't handle the insecurity of not having security, and so to me Carlos is -- he doesn't talk about it. He just comes to play. I mean, this guy loves to play, loves to win.

Q. Dusty, obviously, you didn't have Alvarez at all in the playoffs last year. What is the biggest thing you miss when he is not in your lineup?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, you got a big left-handed bat. If you would have given us Alvarez last year, maybe the outcome might have been different. When you miss a big bat like that, I mean, I know he is only one out of nine, but the big bats, they do probably 20% to 30% of the carrying of the weight for your offense. And these big bats, they can turn a whole series around. A big bat can carry the team on its back for at least a short period of time and possibly a long period of time.

I mean, you look at Big Papi a few years ago with Boston. He was the man. You look at Manny Ramirez. If you've got more than one big bat in there, then you really, you know, got a great chance.

Q. Hi, Dusty. Good to see you. When you look at pitching and you think about postseasons that you managed in the past and obviously, when you had Strasburg and Scherzer who was always going deep into games, it's a different game right now where sometimes you see three innings, four innings, no earned runs, and that's good. How has your philosophy changed on that in terms of how you want to use your pitching here in the series?

DUSTY BAKER: It's changed because the philosophy of the game hasn't changed. My philosophy hasn't changed. When I was in Chicago, I looked on the board -- you know, when Ozzie Guillén, they won four in a row. I don't think they used anybody out of the bullpen. Man, that would be great.

But, you know, I mean, with how the guys are conditioned in the Minor Leagues, it's all about conditioning mentally and physically. You know, when you're told some guys shouldn't go the third time around, you better have a heck of a bullpen. You see how the bullpens change or how many teams use so many different players in the bullpen, but it still goes back to the importance of a bullpen.

I remember when I was a very young man reading something by Yogi Berra. He says if you don't have a bullpen, you don't have nothing. You know what I mean? You know, we've come to depend on them. You try to put them in a position where they will most likely succeed. Are you going to necessarily get it perfect? No. Because the other team over there has something to say about scoring runs off of your guys, and so, again, it's going to be an exciting series.

Q. Hey, Dusty. From what you knew of Alex Cora before he became a manager, did you have an idea he would be as successful as he has been so far?

DUSTY BAKER: No, because I didn't really know him. I knew him in passing or I knew everybody that he grew up with. Especially in Puerto Rico. I knew Kenny Maldonado and -- I actually had more contact with his brother, you know, Joey, across the field, than I had with Alex. Cintron -- that's one of Cintron's best friend.

You know, Sandy Alomar Jr. I know all the people that he grew up with. You know, I knew Sandy's father. I played with Sandy's father in Puerto Rico on the same team. So, yeah, I mean, I'm pulling for him other than when he is playing us.

Q. He is so aggressive the way he manages in the postseason in terms of bringing in starters whenever. How does that change the way you might approach things?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, if I was as concerned about what he is doing, then that would make me a counter-puncher versus a puncher. Do you know what I mean? I'm more worried about getting the max out of my team than I am what they're doing over there.

Q. Dusty, you saw Framber develop last year. What has impressed you the most about his makeup, his development over the last year to get him to this spot right now at this stage?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, he has been here before. He was our main guy last year. For a young kid to have done and been in a situation, you know, you don't find that much. The last really young kid -- I mean, not kid, but young man -- that I was around was Fernando Valenzuela in L.A. He wasn't in all the situations. I mean, he pitched far beyond his years. And I like Framber's determination. I like the fact that he is loose as heck. You know what I mean? Which will take him a long ways that you don't expect Framber to get or be tight.

Q. Dusty, you touched on it some, but how do you think your roster, the organization, is built right now to handle with the depth that you have given Lance's situation, Jake's situation if they can't go for whatever reason what you have to go for depth-wise for those guys?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, hey, man, you got to do what you got to do. And not only that, I mean, like you hear me talk about a surprise person, and somebody, you know, to step up. A lot of times it's somebody that you -- not one of your big boys that you're counting on to step up. You know, I keep referring back to Mark Lemke with the Braves. Who knew Lemke was going to step up the way he did, and usually there's less pressure on those guys because they're not expected to carry the load.

All year long we've had different guys. I mean, all year long. We lose one guy. We pick up another guy. Then this guy picks up the banner, and then the next guy picks up the banner, and this is what we have to do. I mean, you're not going to get any sympathy or cards from anybody because this guy is not here or that guy is not here. We got to figure out the best way.

Q. Dusty, what stands out about Framber Valdez? What stands out when you think of him?

DUSTY BAKER: How strong he is. I mean, this guy is -- this guy could be a running back. He could be a middle linebacker. I mean, this guy is strong. He is physically strong, and mentally loose.

Q. Dusty, the Red Sox have some left-handed hitters, especially at the top of their order. With the way that Maton pitched in the last series, has that changed the equation and made you feel like you might not need the second lefty?

DUSTY BAKER: Probably not. I mean, you can't throw Maton out there every day, so there are going to be pockets and things. They have some good lefties. I mean, some really good lefties. You just hope that your guys perform. We're trying to get to the best roster we can to combat. We don't have everybody on their roster, but you do know which guys -- you know Devers is going to be on the roster. They can leave him off if they want to.

Shoot, they got three or four lefties in there that can -- these guys can hit. This should be an offensive series. You are going to have to play them all the way down to the end. You're never out of a game that you're going to have to add on when you need to add on, and you never know which run is going to be the final run that's going to be the winning run.

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