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October 19, 2002

Dusty Baker


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dusty Baker.

Q. The second half of last year, Russ Ortiz came on. He seemed to do the same thing this year, won his last eight starts. What is it about him in the last portion of the year that comes on strong?

DUSTY BAKER: I think the more innings he gets, the sharper he gets, he varies his control and ability to keep the ball down. As far as Russ' very strong mind, he's a person that's strong, physically. Second half of the year, when a lot of guys are getting weak and tired, possibly Russ is still strong.

Q. Can you talk about having grown up in California, now managing a California team in a California World Series, what it means to you to be here, any special memories along the way of getting to this point, from growing up?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm a combination of both Southern and Northern California. I was born in Riverside. I left there when I was 16, my dad's job got transferred to Sacramento. Most of my family's been up there ever since. I'm a combination. I was always a kid that liked the Dodgers and the Giants growing up. Some guys on the Angels, I remember. At the same time, I remember my Colt League years, like '63 and '64 when I think the Hollywood Stars and the Los Angeles Angels came over to play in our Colt League park, Steve Bilko and Luke Easter hit one a mile. I never forgot that as a kid. With Albie Pearson and Daddy Wags later on, and Dean Chance, Bo Belinsky, Bobby Knoop, I remember a lot of players on the Angels at the time. So, it's really pretty neat to have grown up watching both sides, all sides, and then here I am managing here in Angels Stadium, or what is it called now? Edison Field (laughter).

Q. What's your thinking on using Shinjo as the DH, and once you have him in the line-up, using him as a DH and keeping Lofton in center rather than vice versa?

DUSTY BAKER: I thought about doing that vice versa. I talked to Kenny about it. His years of being in the American League, he's more familiar with this ballpark, number one, defensively. Number two, he feels more comfortable playing and staying in the game playing than he does DHing. He really wasn't -- everybody can't DH. Shinjo is a guy that hits left-handers pretty good, very good, probably one of the better guys on our team. Washburn throws a lot of fastballs, high fastballs, which is more conducive to Shinjo's style. That's why we decided to go with Shinjo as a DH instead of Lofton.

Q. Let me try and inject something. When you first came up with the Dodgers, your knees were very bad and you hardly got a chance to play initially. Your longevity tells me that you're fortunate to still be around. Talk about those years. The other question would be, if you're a betting man, are you managing in San Francisco next year?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, number two, I'm not a betting man. I don't bet. That's one of the vices that my dad wouldn't let me do as a kid, so I really don't know what to tell you on that second part because my sister told on me when I was 12 years old, that I had some dice underneath my pillow. So my dad took them out in the driveway with a hammer, broke the dice, broke my heart. I was going to get rich at school. My dad said no son of his was going to be a gambler. As far as my first year in LA, I did have bad knees, hurt myself in the -- right after the trade in the wintertime. Played with a bad knee. Especially in '77, '78, I was taped up every day. You know, I just found a way to play. Back then, you had to find a way to play or else somebody's going to have your job, especially on the great Dodger teams we had with the young players waiting to come up. I think that's helped me endure a lot of things in my life, just knowing how to survive and knowing how to do things in spite of injury or bad health or whatever.

Q. The Angels have busted open some games in the playoffs with big, late innings. Does that tell you something about their personality?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it tells me that any time you're a big inning team, you're looking for a break. So you can't allow them to have that break. A lot of times it can be on defense, could be a walk or an error, something like this. So you have to stop them from having the big inning. But that's the kind of team we have, too. We're capable of having a big inning, especially late in the ball game. We can score a lot of runs in a hurry. So we may have to -- if this is happening, we may have to call timeout, take the air out of the ball and slow things down a little bit. That does tell me that they have an explosive offense.

Q. Looking at the roster, I don't believe you made any changes. I wondered why you decided not to. In particular, why did you decide to stick with the three left-handed relievers?

DUSTY BAKER: We decided to stick with the three left-handed relievers because they have quite a few left-handers on their roster and in their starting line-up. In order to combat that, we figure we needed the left-handed relievers, plus we're going with eleven pitchers, they're going with ten, the fact we're playing four games in their park, three games in our park. They have their philosophy in the American League, we have our own philosophy in the National League. Especially in their park, you don't have to double switch or anything as much because you don't have to worry about the pitcher spot coming up. So we decided to go with the same roster, which was under a lot of deliberation and thought. We had some tough decisions there to make, Aybar's been good for us, Jensen has been good for us. Also, Damon Minor he had a good record DHing. But we do play three games in our park, too. So when they have another starter, most of their starters that are right-handed tend to get left-handers out better than right-handers. So we decided to go with the guys that were capable of doing more than one thing, pinch hit, pinch run, play defense and more well-rounded thing versus just maybe an offensive play or two.

Q. With a power pitcher like Schmidt coming into a big game like this, is there a little bit more of a risk that he might get too pumped up, try and muscle up, over-throw? What do you do to keep him on track?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, there's always a risk. Same thing with Washburn. He's a power pitcher, too. I think that it's not as big a danger with the power pitchers being up as a finesse pitcher being pumped up and throwing too hard. I think it's harder on finesse pitchers trying more, when, basically, most of their game is to try less. So, what you do to combat that is a lot of it depends on how he warms up in the bullpen. We have a great pitching coach in Dave Righetti that knows what to do in these situations. He's been in many, many, many big games, so Dave can lend his expertise while he's warming up, and we'll keep an eye on him early in the ball game. Plus, he works great with Benito. A lot will fall on how Benito gets the ball back to him if he's getting great -- or take your time getting the ball back to him if he starts to overthrow.

Q. Do you or do you not like to DH? What are some of the trappings of the American League game where you don't have to automatically pick up the pitcher?

DUSTY BAKER: I like to DH in the American League. I've always liked it in the American League. I mean, started there, gave the opportunity for a lot of guys that can still play, still hit, at least to continue to hit and play. It gives an opportunity to give guys days off in the American League. There is a place for it, I think. I've been in the National League most of my career, and a couple years in Oakland. I enjoyed that DH situation there but I like our style of baseball over here. Now, one of the dangers of playing American League baseball is not knowing exactly when to take your pitcher out, like you do in our league. A lot of times the situation dictates when you take him out, if his spot's coming up to hit. American League, I've noticed they tend to stick with their pitcher a little bit longer because you know you have more of an offensive line-up in there, don't have to worry about double switching, the pitcher's spot coming up so you can stick with him a little longer and hope that your offense can come back.

Q. You've told us about your late-night revelations. Did you have any last night? Did you sleep well, any nerves?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I didn't have any late-night revelations last night because I was -- I got to bed about 10:30 after playing ball with my son. So I was tired when I went to bed, which I like to be tired when I go to bed. I slept well last night. Woke up this morning, you naturally are going to have some butterflies wondering about what's to be, who's going to be the victor and who's going to be the champion at the end of this. We don't have a crystal ball. Got to go out and play. I've said this over and over, Hank used to tell us it's okay to be nervous in the big games, don't be scared. Being nervous is a natural human occurrence, and if you're not a little nervous, then something's wrong with you. But those nerves usually subside shortly after the first pitch of the ball game.

End of FastScripts...

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