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October 10, 2022

Dusty Baker

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: First question for Dusty.

Q. From all your experience of being in the playoffs and the postseason and this would be obviously not your first time with the Astros, what is different of this particular Astro team and what is your expectation in this postseason and if you could answer in Spanish, it would be lovely, but if you can't, I understand.

DUSTY BAKER: (Smiling.) Okay. Okay. It's better to get it started and get me tired right away.

(Answer in Spanish.)

THE MODERATOR: Can you give that to us in English, Dusty, please? (Laughing.)

DUSTY BAKER: Okay. I told you you were going to make me tired right away, because if I got to think in Spanish, then it's hard. I'm not a natural. I really admire the Latin players for doing English interviews because they really try to do it correctly.

But what I said was these guys, they believe in each other, they have a lot of love for each other, and they are together. The more together you are, then the better that you play.

Q. Have you solidified your rotation for the rest of the series?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes, we have, but we're not going to announce it today yet, until we make sure that everybody's healthy, make sure everybody's well because, you know, there's been some illness going around, actually in the state, in the world, and here in Houston.

So we're going to just make sure that everybody's well before we announce it.

Q. The significance of having Justin Verlander go for you in Game 1?

DUSTY BAKER: I mean this guy, he knows how to, he knows what it's about. He's been the horse many times. We're so glad to have him. This guy is one of the leaders on the team, guys follow him, and guys feel very, very confident with him on the mound. He's a very confident young man and we feel very fortunate to have him.

Q. It would seem that whoever you play -- it would seem that your decisions at DH and left field kind of go hand in hand. How do you view those two spots going into this and would you like one person to kind of solidify left field?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's a good question. Nobody's really solidified it, especially since Michael's been out. That hurt a lot, losing Michael Brantley that nobody mentions.

But we go on who is pitching for us, also the possibility of having to put somebody in for defense or having to pinch run for somebody. You hate to take your big bats out of there, but also the fact that how well Yordan has played left field, you know? I mean, he's played left field, I call him golden glove because he's come a long ways from the time when I got here, and he's playing golden glove left field, but all anybody sees is how he hits.

But I also have to, his ankle is fine, but I also got to be cognizant of like day after night or whatever because we got to keep him healthy and make sure we get him to the plate.

Q. You're obviously familiar with the Mariners. You're playing them all the time throughout the year. But they have kind of been a different team this year. They're hot right now. What have you seen from them this year that makes them maybe more challenging than they have been in the past?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, when they were under 500 earlier, everybody was concerned, and I told 'em that they were going to be here because I know they got talent, and it's a long race, and they were without Haniger and now they have added Castillo. Those are two big weapons.

But they're the same, good, well-motivated team they were before. They know us pretty well and we know them pretty well, so, hey, it's going to be a great series.

Q. How do you view your center field situation and do you still expect Dubón to start with Verlander on the mound?

DUSTY BAKER: No, probably not. We just need some more offense, possibly. We got our lineup, but we'll announce it tomorrow after we solidify our team and figure out who we're going to keep.

So I'll do pretty much what I've done most of the year. You try to do what you do and what you think is the best lineup on that day. Center field has kind of been a round robin of who I think should play against whoever we have pitching, the ballpark we're in, the speed, who we have pitching against us. I mean, it's been challenging not having like one person, but that's part of the job.

Q. With the way the series is laid out where you have off days after Games 1 and Games 2, does that change how you would construct your roster, especially in terms of how many pitchers you might need?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, that's a very good question. Yeah, that's true because, you know, it really helps both bullpens stay fresh, especially when you have to play one, then day off, play another, and then you got to construct it for the possibility of three days in a row at the last three and also one being a travel day. So, yeah, it does.

And a five-game series is different than a seven, and five's different than a three. So, yeah, it does make a difference in how you construct your lineup, yes, I mean, especially your pitching.

Q. You mentioned earlier a little bit about Brantley. Can you talk about how this team has been able to, especially even offensively, kind of rebound with missing a guy like a Brantley all year? And of course we talked about missing Correa.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, Correa has been more or less offset by the production of Peña. He's done a great job.

Brantley, I mean, there's another premier left-handed bat leader on the field. We are right-handed strong, and like I said, when Brantley was there, he would offset a right-handed pitcher, especially. I mean, he would offset everybody, but especially right-handed pitching. He was a guy that would get on base, put the pitcher in the stretch, and hit those tough pitchers.

So we have mentioned Michael, plus he's one of the best base runners that we had. He's probably one of the best outfielders that we had and one of the best just ball players period, and he's big on this team. That's why I'm glad he came back after his operation to be with his teammates because these guys, they depend on him.

He's not called Uncle Mike for nothing, because they depend on him, and they know that they can go to him, and I feel confident that these guys, I urge them to go to him because they know that they will get an honest answer for whatever question they may have.

Q. Following up on that, what have you liked about Peña in the two hole and just kind of the pitches he's seen there and I know since he made the adjustment he is hitting a lot better last three or four weeks, but what do you like about him up there?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, number one, I asked him, I asked 'em all in the beginning, where do they like to hit. And everybody has a preference to where they have hit a lot of times in their life, because I always bat lead off, third or fifth, I hated number four.

So him batting in front of Yordan, hopefully he'll get more fastballs, which most young hitters like. Some of it is just out of necessity. Your second hitter, which I've urged him to be, which is a lot on the defensive side, a rookie short stop, and a lot on the offensive side, where your second hitter has to be one of the smartest hitters in your lineup.

So he's really carried a lot on his shoulders, but I think that he was one of the best because him down in the lineup he's going to see more breaking balls, you know what I mean? And he has the ability to steal. He's a good base runner.

So it's kind of a work in progress, but this guy's really, he's a smart kid, and he's made some tremendous adjustments in a short period of time.

Q. José Altuve has been so good for you guys as a leadoff hitter. What does it do for your offense when a guy can get on a pitcher really early on in a game and what does that say about him as a hitter?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, number one, he thinks he can hit; and number two, his background, he's been hitting all his life. He not only has speed, but he has power at the same time.

There aren't many leadoff hitters like José Altuve that can have enough speed to steal if you walk 'em or get on or have enough power to hit the ball out of the ballpark early and put you up 1-0. It's more in the vein of like a Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock or some of these guys. I mean, I'm talking about some great, great Hall of Fame-type players. So we certainly love it when he's in the lineup, and we got a big hole when's not.

Q. Given Seattle has so many lefties in the lineup, do you expect to carry a lefty in the bullpen?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, we're trying to decide that now. I only have one vote, so we get in a room, and we'll decide what we need, or what's best for us.

Q. Want to know, with the change in the playoff format and now that you've had the bye, pretty much the bye, how has this bye affected the team's preparation, if it has at all?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, we really don't know the effects of it, and we really don't know the effects of being off. We'll find out here soon. The one thing that it's done is it's let us set our pitching as much as anything. That's the one positive.

We don't know if rust or being off that long, we won't know until we get into it, because I've been on both scenarios where I've clinched early or eliminated somebody early and had a few days off. But I've also seen some positive things come out of that. But I've also seen some positive things come out of not having any time off, just staying on it.

So I don't know how it's going to affect them, but we'll see how it affects us, if anything.

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