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October 29, 2021

Dusty Baker

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Truist Park

Houston Astros

Pregame 3 Press Conference

Q. Dusty, how difficult is that balance going to be when you want to put in your better defensive outfield tonight? What kind of factors will you use in using your bench tonight?

DUSTY BAKER: The game will dictate that. You know, time in the game, the inning, if it appears that I'm going to need somebody -- you've got to take a chance if his bat's going to come up in the ninth or tenth or if you're in extra innings. It's sort of a chance we have to take. There is no definitive answer, so the game will dictate that.

Q. Do you know if Greinke will start tomorrow? If he does, will that be a game where you have to try to save Odorizzi and maybe piggy-back those two guys?

DUSTY BAKER: There's a good chance he'll start tomorrow. As far as saving anybody, we're going to try to win the game today. Then we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. But you're hopefully not going to run through everybody in the meantime.

So we'll just calculate it where we are in the order, who comes in next, the job that they're doing, how many pitches -- all this goes into the factor of today and tomorrow.

Q. We talked to Kyle Tucker before we left town about the possibility of playing center field here in Atlanta, and he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, sure, I'll be ready.

DUSTY BAKER: That's Kyle.

Q. What do you appreciate about the way he approaches this game with kind of this low-key approach and yet finds a way to produce at a remarkable level?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, he's low key anyway. He has fast twitch muscles, but everything's kind of ho-hum to him. But everybody's not the same. This is how his personality is. So let him be himself and accept everything that he has to give us.

Some guys when they say good morning, it's 52 words. Another guy, Kyle, is just hello.


Q. Dusty, I know the weather has limited your guys' ability to be out on the field. What has it been like for the outfielders who don't have that experience and maybe haven't had as much time to practice out there as you would like?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, they haven't had any time to practice out there really. We haven't taken anything off the bat because we haven't hit on the field. It's not only going to affect our outfield, it's going to affect our infielders as well because they don't know if it's playing faster because it's wet. Is there a lip there that's going to have balls hop up on them?

We tried to get on the field yesterday, but they had had the field covered because of the threat of rain and they didn't want to mess it up today. Hopefully, we can have a bunch of strikeouts and don't have a whole bunch of plays.

But the ball that ate Altuve up in Boston, I noticed there were some balls hit right by him in practice, it appeared thick, but it played extremely fast. The ball hopped out on Altuve, and that skimmed out on the grass. A lot of times you can tell by the thickness of the grass, but in Boston it was totally the opposite. So we really don't know how it's going to play, and I'm just hoping they don't have any adverse plays against us.

Q. There's going to be a presentation for Hank before the game, and I was just wondering like how nice you think that that is that they're doing that? I imagine it will be very emotional for you.

DUSTY BAKER: Yes, totally. I mean, it's totally necessary. This is the year of Hank Aaron, the year of Hank Aaron's death. I spoke to all his kids. I spoke to Billy today. This was kind of done kind of on the rush a little bit because Lary, Hank's son, was already planning to go to -- I guess Grambling is playing Florida or Florida State or somebody in Tallahassee, and he's not going to be here because he was just told three days ago.

Then Hankie called me yesterday and said it's going to be the second game. Then I got a call from Mr. Tannenbaum, Hank's lawyer, saying it was going to be today. So today it is.

I haven't had a chance to see his kids or Billy yet, so looking forward to seeing them during the game and giving them the love and support that they've always given me.

Q. This postseason has really become a little bit of a war of attrition for both teams, and I'm curious if that gives you any concern for what it would look like if the postseason was expanded going forward?

DUSTY BAKER: I wish we could have -- with the day of pitchers not going deep into the game, I sincerely wish that we consider expanding the rosters even more, especially with the fact of we're all scared to death of extra inning games, what it could do to your team, and as you saw, what it did to probably Tampa Bay in that extra inning game there. Especially since we're no longer on second base to start extra inning games.

You have to try to win these games as soon as you can. Like I said, I wish we could expand the roster maybe two people.

Q. Dusty, is managing these three games exercising a completely different muscle for a manager without the DH? Including your prep for these three. How does that play out?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'll let you know after these three. You can plan all you want to, but always something throws a wrench in your plans. So you've got plans A, B, C, and D. Then I've told certain guys to possibly be ready to pinch-hit to save this guy or that guy.

I spent most of my years in the National League, and I got kind of -- we were playing San Diego or somebody, and they asked me why I used McCullers to hit or run, and that's how you do. For those that have never been in the league, it's a league of -- a number of times I've had pitchers pinch-hit or some of my fastest runners are pitchers. I've had them pinch run and told them don't do anything crazy because you're going to get hurt. You try not to run or hit -- you try not to run a guy the day before he's pinching.

A lot of guys enjoy it, and a lot of guys are better hitters than they were pitchers coming up as kids. I had Don Robinson. I had some bona fide hitters. I'm sure that they probably are considering Max Fried pinch-hitting, and I have to be aware of that as well.

Q. I was talking to Yuli and to Joe Espada a little bit about the infield and the fact that you guys haven't gotten a chance to play and with the weather. How concerned are you particularly with the bounces and so on in an infield you don't really know?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, very concerned because you could get shocked. You could really -- where it comes into play is like a right-hander hitting the ball to the right side that has a weird spin on it, and for a left-hander to hit the ball to the left side that has the opposite spin on it that it's going to pick up speed sometimes, especially the ones that hit the infield dirt first versus if they hit the grass first, unless it's extremely wet, it usually takes the sting out of the ball sort of.

But the ones that are hit at your feet that hit the dirt part first, those are the ones that they really kind of eat you up. I know the scorekeeper gives them errors, but, man, when I was a kid, there were some balls that were too hot to handle. It seems like now they spoiled the scorekeepers to the point of how come you didn't catch that ball? Sometimes they're too hot to handle.

Q. In a weird way, is the rain maybe a blessing in disguise for the infield?

DUSTY BAKER: That is kind of weird.


I'm trying to get weird with you to figure it out (laughter). As of right now, no, it's not a blessing right now.

Q. I'm sure when you were managing your previous teams, you would hear the Tomahawk Chop. There's been talk about that since '91. But it's come up a lot lately with you guys playing the Braves and Braves being back in the World Series. I'm just wondering, do you have an opinion on whether that is a good thing, bad thing, should continue? There's even talk about the Braves nickname being changed?

DUSTY BAKER: It's their thing. They have to solve that. All I know is that I didn't really like that Tomahawk Chop because when they had Fred McGriff and Chipper Jones and those guys, that meant that they were usually right around the corner.

I looked up in the stands one day when I was managing, and my son might have been 4 or 5, and I looked up -- no, they had him on the board up there on the jumbotron, and he was doing the Tomahawk Chop, and I'm like, man -- after the game, I'm like, man, what are you doing?


Then I got home, and my wife had bought him a Tomahawk that was in this suitcase, and she acted like she didn't know where it came from.

Yeah, it picks them up, I'll tell you that.

Q. You mentioned Hank earlier, but this is the team that drafted you. This is where you made your Major League debut as a player. What's it like being back here in Atlanta managing in the World Series?

DUSTY BAKER: I've been back here before as a player. I've been back here before as a coach and a manager. It's probably different. I mean, this is the most different kind of feeling that I've had that I didn't -- that you can't describe because I'm happy to be back here but I'm sad to be back here, other than Hank's funeral the first time, without Hank. And I have a couple other partners that have died of COVID. Michael Weiss, I always see him when I'm here. Joe Han, my partner here, people that knew me when I was 18, 19 years old.

So I don't even ask them who they're rooting for because they'll probably lie to me. It's a little -- it's strange. I think it would be more strange being at Fulton County Stadium, I think. That is now.

These are one of the things that might be already written because you couldn't write this plot, this ending. So I'm curious to see how it's going to end.

Q. Yuli was in here a few minutes ago talking about how tough it's been to -- he's done it, but how tough it's been to get accustomed to the long seasons compared to what he was used to in Cuba and other things, and he came over here after age 30 with the game trending so young. How impressive to you, in the two years you've known him since Houston, to see him be able to thrive as he has after age 30, longer season, and a whole new atmosphere for him, all these five years he's been doing it?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a good question. Number one, he takes care of himself, big time. He takes care of himself eating, he doesn't drink, he doesn't hang out. This guy, he might be a certain age, but he's five, six years younger than that age is. Plus he's Latin American, and Latin Americans that I came up with, they don't age.

You look at Minnie Minoso, Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty, all the guys that I came up with, Tony Perez, they used to play winter ball every year. You talk to guys now, and it's like, oh, I'm tired, whatever it is. But these guys, Jose Cruz and Willie Montanez, I played winter ball with these guys every year.

What Yuli's doing, and we had a talk a couple of weeks ago, and he told me that he was kind of worn. So I just told him, hey, man, you've got to quit telling yourself that and just pretend that you're not tired. And the fact that our dads went to work every day and never got sick. I can't remember my dad ever being sick, home in the bed sick. He didn't want to hear you're tired.

So some of it is a state of mind. It depends how strong your mind is.

Q. You have a core of players who have been with the Astros through tough times and best times. How much their leadership makes your job easier?

DUSTY BAKER: It makes it a lot easier, especially when your leaders are some of your best players and some of your best citizens as well. That's what you want out of your leaders. You not only want them as good players, but you want them as good citizens so they take the younger guys down the right road and not the wrong road.

This is the cleanest living team that I've ever seen and been on. Yeah, this is some team.

Q. Back to the pregame ceremony for Hank again, I'm just wondering, have you got a look at the Astros schedule -- the pregame schedule of events? Will the Astros be on the field or in the dugout during that? If not, will you make it a point to be in the dugout or somewhere where you'll watch the pregame ceremony?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I'll be in the dugout. We don't know because of the weather. We were told, we don't even know if we're going to have introductions or what. So everything depends on the weather, so we'll see.

But I go out half an hour before the game anyway. I'll be where I normally am.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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