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October 14, 2022

Dusty Baker

Seattle, Washington, USA

T-Mobile Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Dusty Baker.

Q. When you got to spring training you were pretty unclear as to what, if anything, you would get from McCullers this season. I guess now that we are here what have you made of just in kind of the endurance and perseverance he's made to get to this point?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, nobody works harder. Very few have the determination that Lance has, the determination and drive. Like I said before, he loves to pitch. He loves to pitch in pressurized situations and big games. So we feel very confident with Lance on the mound.

Q. Want to ask you what the flight here was like. I know it was after two big wins. I think the families were with you guys. Can you kind of give us the mood of the team and what the trip was like?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, there wasn't much noise. The guys were pretty subdued. It's a long flight. You kind of see what the Mariners go through all the year because all their flights are long flights.

So there was a lot of sleeping. I didn't hear much noise. We had a very, very nice plane that made it conducive to sleep. Most of the families were, it was a large plane, and they were from the mid-part back, I think. And I didn't hear anybody crying or, with all the kids on the plane because it was past their bedtime. So it was a nice flight.

Q. You've got some pitchers you haven't pitched yet this series after a big layoff. How do you think they have approached this layoff and is there some uncertainty what you're going to get from maybe some of those guys when they pitch, Stanek and Mancini and Garcia, if they get in there?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you can't pitch everybody. You're trying to pitch guys where they would most likely have success for them and us. We would like to get 'em in there, but this is a situation where you use your leverage guys.

What made it tough to get some of these guys in there is the fact that they had predominantly a left-handed lineup and certain guys were better right versus left, and also the fact that we had one day, off day, one day, another off day. And that's what kind of makes it tough on getting guys some work. You hope that they will stay sharp throwing pens, throwing on the side, which is probably evident of like Pressly yesterday. I can't emphasize enough, sometimes these layoffs are great, but sometimes they're not so good for guys to stay sharp. Plus they were only using a couple guys out of their pen too.

Q. With the playoffs and the pressure that goes with that, especially for young guys, how pleased have you been with specifically a guy like Jeremy PeƱa these first couple of games, the way he's handled the bat and then defensively?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, once the game starts it's the same baseball. I mean, you can let pressure get to you if you want to but it really serves no purpose. So like I said before, he who relaxes the most, is the most determined, and concentrates the most is the one that usually will have success. So we're not counting success yet until after this series is over and then we'll start a new series hopefully.

Q. If you could reiterate the significance of having Lance for the postseason, given what you told us a few days ago that you felt like if you had had Lance in the postseason last year you might be world champions.

DUSTY BAKER: Right. Well, that's just my opinion. Like I said, it was a downer when we lost Lance. Hopefully Lance can be Lance. There's something to be said about a guy that's been there before. So we just hope that Lance is sharp and Lance is Lance.

Q. With Gurriel I know he struggled a little bit throughout regular season, but he's off to a good start here in the postseason. How important is it for him to have a good postseason stretch for the success of this team?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's important for not only him, but it's important for us because we depend on him big-time. In my mind, he saved a bunch of runs in yesterday's game at first base. That's one constant that he's always had. You take him for granted on how he plays first base.

But he has a lot of pride in hitting. I mean, he's hit in Cuba, he's hit all over the world. He's hit in the United States, he's hit in Japan. He's hit everywhere he's been. This is the first down year he's had. So I always had faith in the fact that he's still going to hit. And water will seek its own level. It's nice to see him turning around velocity because that's the first thing that people say, when you don't turn around velocity that you're getting old and your reactions are getting old.

So a lot of that is a state of mind. And we need him. We need him very badly. He's in the heart of the lineup. He's a contact guy and we were all kind of waiting on this to happen.

Q. Do you know what you'll do in center field tomorrow?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. We're going with McCormick in center field tomorrow.

Q. We've heard the guys at home talk to us about how they kind of feed off the energy of the crowd at Minute Maid Park. You guys are certainly no stranger to hostile environments. Can you talk us through what a crowd does, maybe what a home field advantage can do as your home or visitor like you will be tomorrow for the first time?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, at home most of the people in your home are for you and they're giving you positive energy. On the road they're sending you a lot of negative energy. But you have to turn that around in the form again of concentration. And, I mean, this team has gone through a lot of negativity on the road the last three years. The one thing that I urged this team in spring training was to try to be the best road team in the league. I mean, that's big.

And also be the best getaway day team in that all important 3rd or 4th game on the road. And also to be a good daytime team, which we've accomplished all those and hopefully we can continue that trend.

Q. That same realm, does it help you guys at all familiarity with having played here so much that you kind of know what you're walking into, familiarity with everything here, because you come here so often?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that helps. That helps to know the field, helps to know the possible carom, the predominant way the wind blows. But I mean, this is fall, so it's a little bit different now than the spring and summer. Things change, sight lines change, the sun's setting later. Because when we came here a couple months ago and it was like 6, 7 O'clock, and it was like it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We're so far north that we don't know how the shadows are going to affect us. That's why we're out here today to practice.

Q. You have a lot of guys, like Altuve, Bregman, Gurriel who have been doing this for years now, but then you have someone like David Hensley who everything's new to him and he's obviously appeared in both games and had a key at-bat in Game 1. What's it like when you have someone that new to everything and he's contributing and experienced and what have you seen from him so far since he's been with the ball club?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean he's highly competitive. He's not afraid. He's kind of like a young kid that don't know what to be afraid of yet. Plus the younger players don't have any negative occurrences to remind 'em of anything. I mean, sometimes you have to refrain from going back to '92 or what happened in 2002 or to what happened in -- you got to get rid of those things in your mind. And those kids don't have any negatives yet or failures to remind them.

Q. Do you have any other lineup previews you want to share?


Q. Do you have any other lineup stuff you want to share?

DUSTY BAKER: Not really. I mean, you got anything in particular?

Q. Like DH maybe. Just what do you do at DH. You've had two different guys DH after two games.

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, how come you just didn't say that in the beginning? (Laughing.)

Q. Didn't want to pigeon hole you into one spot?

DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah, right. (Laughing.) Okay. No, I'm going to DH Mancini tomorrow. I mean, he has seen the pitcher of record tomorrow, which helps him. Very few of us have seen him. I think he's, I'm not sure, I think he has four or five at-bats against him, which is better than nothing.

Q. Touching on earlier you mentioned the energy on the road that you guys have had. But coming into this too with this home crowd tomorrow having their first home playoff game in 21 years, how much of a factor do you think that energy and that excitement is going to be in the game tomorrow?

DUSTY BAKER: Oh, for them or for us?

Q. For both teams, I guess.

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean I'm sure everybody likes playing at home. But also this team, like I said, I don't know what our record was, like 42 and something on the road or something like that. I mean somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

THE MODERATOR: Won 51 games on the road.

DUSTY BAKER: That's a lot of games. That's a lot of games to draw upon. So we have to just play our game. You can't really worry about where you are. It's going to be exciting. I know this town is excited. I got people that are excited about it and some people that are disappointed to this point.

Q. You mentioned Mancini, he's had probably some bad luck at the plate. He's hit a lot of balls hard that have been outs. But he's obviously, the numbers haven't been there in the recent weeks. What have you seen from him at the plate and how he's handling all this and trying to find his way through a bit of a slump?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean you hope that, again, you get rid of the negatives that are bombarding you in your mind. Just like I tell my son, You're one at-bat away from a hot streak. And that's how you got to look at it. If you keep counting, I'm 0-20. Guess what? You're going to go 0-21. And I've seen guys that I played with that would hit four line drives at somebody and they would say, Man, I'm going to see who I can hit this line drive to. And invariably they hit it to somebody else. And I tell these guys like, I tell 'em all, Luke Appling, who was like one of my coaches with the Braves used to tell me, Dusty, to be lucky you got to think lucky. And I believe that.

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