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September 29, 2003

Dusty Baker


THE MODERATOR: All right, we're ready in the interview room with Dusty Baker.

Q. What has Kerry done so well recently down the stretch?

DUSTY BAKER: Number one, I think he's a lot healthier. He's a lot calmer. Any time you're aching, like he was, with the back and you try to do things that are unnatural and try to do more, he's just been relaxed and healthy.

Q. Is there a friendly competition between Kerry and Prior?

DUSTY BAKER: There is always friendly competition, just so long as it remains friendly with no anger or jealousy involved. I have had two guys like that that feed off each other. I had John Burkett and Billy Swift. Swift was trying to keep up with himself and Burky was trying to do whatever Swift did. All we want is excellence out of both of them.

Q. How would you assess the mental preparedness of your team for this series?

DUSTY BAKER: We're ready. I think it helped us a lot to clinch on Saturday and get some of the festivities out of the way on Sunday and have an off day to work out. I think my team is ready, mentally and physically prepared. We're probably the healthiest we have been most of the year so I think we're in great shape.

Q. Have you set your final roster yet?

DUSTY BAKER: No, no, not yet. We have to have a meeting when we get through here. We have until midnight tonight to set the final roster.

Q. Everybody believes in their own team. What do you think about Lopez saying there is no chance the Cubs could win?

DUSTY BAKER: First, you don't really know he said it or if that's how he said it, number one. Number two, every man can say what he wants to say, but it's up to both sides to determine who is right and who is wrong and who is the best in the five-game series.

Q. Do you have to be -- do the Cubs have to be more aggressive offensively in this series because the Braves score a lot of runs?

DUSTY BAKER: You've got to do the same thing that got you here. I mean, what's more aggressively? We've got the same speed we had before, which isn't a whole bunch. The main thing is you've got to play your game. You've got to play a good defensive game. We certainly can't allow extra runs. We have to play better defense and fundamental ball and hopefully get some key two-out hits. The main thing is we have to play good baseball.

Q. Earlier in the room, Russ Ortiz spoke very highly of you, and how do you feel about him?

DUSTY BAKER: He's one of the finest guys I have ever had play on the team with me. He's a gentleman. He's a Christian young man. He lives as he talks. My respect for Russ is very high. I love having Russ on the team. I told him years ago that he had a chance to throw a no-hitter and a chance to win 20 and be a Cy Young Award winner. He's knocking on the door this year of two of the things I've told him. He's still young and he's a horse, and Russ is only going to get better.

Q. What have you come to know about Bobby Cox?

DUSTY BAKER: I've come to know you've got to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the wool over on Bobby Cox. That's the same thing my dad used to tell me. Bobby Cox is one of the best managers, if not the best manager around. His record speaks for itself. He will change his game plan in the middle of the game. He's fearless, not afraid to try things and not afraid to be wrong. He's a very good manager. He's where I would like to be 7, 8, 10 years from now.

Q. Do you find that in this town because of being jaded about the success, they don't have the same respect for Cox that he has generally around baseball?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm not really surprised. Most of time your respect is from afar more than you are up close. I went through a similar situation in San Francisco. The only reason why they're jaded at all is because they have been here so many times and haven't won the World Series a lot of times. Bobby Cox, his team has won 100 games six times. He's tied somebody for the lead. That's a lot of wins. I don't have anything bad to say about Bobby Cox.

Q. What are you leaning towards with your lineup, some of the questionable situations where you have different possibilities?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm probably leaning towards, you know, Bako catching tomorrow because Russ is tough on right-handers and probably leaning towards Eric Karros on first base. He's faced Russ many times and had pretty good success against him. I think Eric is like 10 for 27 off of him. That's pretty good.

Q. After what you went through in October, do you have sympathy for Bobby for what he's gone through here?

DUSTY BAKER: I've got sympathy for Bobby, but I'm not going to let it come out on the field with me. We're here trying to beat Bobby Cox and the Braves. He's won a lot. Did you ask Bobby some of these questions about me?

Q. He was crying like a baby.

DUSTY BAKER: Don't buy it, man.

Q. Can you talk about Sosa's importance in this series?

DUSTY BAKER: He's very important in this series because we don't have as many booming big bats as they have over there. Our booming big bats are limited compared to theirs. We just have to do what we have been doing. If Sammy is not doing it, we've got Moe and Karros and Gonzales and Lofton and the rest of the guys. I think more importantly with Sammy is how Grudzielanek gets on the base. I think Sammy is going to have an outstanding series. He wants to have it. This is the first time he's been here in a long time. I just hope he stays within the strike zone basically and attacks the strike zone as it is and not expand it.

Q. How do you view Moises' slump, and is he healthy now?

DUSTY BAKER: You can't keep a good man down too long; especially a good hitter. You can't stop a good hitter from hitting. Sooner or later he's going to explode on somebody. Moe is going to be just fine. He's had as much success if you look at his record in the post-season. I'm not worried about Moe. He's very calm. You can't tell when he's up or down. You can rarely tell if he's upset about something. I'm not worried about Moe.

Q. Jerry Manuel was let go today, the White Sox. Do you plan to call on him, any comments about that?

DUSTY BAKER: He actually called me last night and we talked for a long time last night about things. I think he saw it coming. There is some warning signs a lot of times. He's a big man. He's a strong man, and I told him that, hey, just like in my case and situation, you don't change, and be yourself and keep God in your heart, and you will land on your feet, and I know sooner or later, Jerry will end up someplace, and in the long run, it will be better for him.

Q. Is Darren in California?

DUSTY BAKER: He got an ear infection so he couldn't fly, so -- what's today, Monday, he's actually coming back to Chicago tomorrow. The last thing he told me before the double-header is he's not ready for the season to end without seeing more baseballs, so --

Q. They're expecting a lot of fans to come down here from Chicago as you had in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh recently. What kind of a boost does that give you?

DUSTY BAKER: Somebody's tape just ended. Actually it gives you a tremendous boost. Our fans are everywhere. They were in Puerto Rico; they were in St. Louis. Everywhere we've played, we have had a number of fans. That gives you a tremendous boost. They'll love the city. They're going to love this ballpark, and I think just from judging in the past in the first round or two of playoffs, there is always tickets available. They should not have any trouble getting into the ballpark, and any tickets that haven't been sold, I hope they show up in droves and buy the rest of them.

THE MODERATOR: One last question for Dusty.

Q. How good are you -- is your feeling with coming to Chicago this year?

DUSTY BAKER: I feel very good about it. When you first go into an unknown situation and you leave a good situation where you came from, you're not sure of your decision until later. This has been, you know, other than probably marrying my wife, now, and starting my career with the Giants, this is right at the top as far as making a decision. I prayed on it. I wasn't sure this is what I wanted to do. This is what God wanted me to do, and my mother-in-law, she told me to come here three years ago before she died. I'm the most blessed man in America. How often do you make a decision and it turns out not only great but better than where you were? To me, this is perhaps one of the better situations or decisions that I've made in my life.

Q. Good pitching beats good hitting, is that overrated?

DUSTY BAKER: No, that's not overrated. One thing is for sure, good hitting really beats bad pitching. You can count on that one. If you limp out there with bad pitching against those Braves, they'll beat you to death. I remember watching the '69 Mets, and they beat the Braves here. I remember, the '69 Mets beating the Baltimore Orioles that had an outstanding offensive club. It is not overrated by any means. I'm just hoping that we can emulate and duplicate what the good pitching teams have done.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Dusty.

End of FastScripts...

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