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October 10, 2002

Dusty Baker


Q. I've heard it on TV a dozen times today, the team that's won the first game in the last nine years has won the series; does that mean anything?

DUSTY BAKER: No. That doesn't mean anything because you've still got to win the series. I mean, if the first team that won the series always wins, then you might as well not even play the rest of the games. In my mind, that puts us up, you know, 1-0. We also were told when we went to Atlanta that the last, whatever it was, since National League Division Series started, the team that fell behind 1-2 always lost. So we defied those odds. We just plan on going out and playing each game.

Q. Could you look ahead to Saturday and perhaps discuss your impressions of Finley, and also assess what Russ Ortiz has done for you guys?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, we have not seen Chuck in a while, actually. He's been in the American League, and he was close to coming to us. But he ended up getting the nod to go to St. Louis. He got traded to St. Louis. We have some film on him. We know that when he's sharp, he's very sharp. A lot of it depends on how he's hitting the split-finger; if he's not getting it over sharp. As far as Ortiz, his confidence is high, he's won X amount of games in a row. When a pitcher gets on a roll like that, confidence is the No. 1 factor when it comes to being a pitcher.

Q. Have you and your staff stressed a particular approach for your hitters to take during the post-season?

DUSTY BAKER: Not really. We have a game plan, like everybody does, on how you are going to approach a guy. If you are going hit the ball to right field, this guy may hit the ball up, this guy may hit the ball down, attack the first pitch. But as far as any particular approach, no, not really. Just that our offense is swinging the bat well. I mean, this is the best ball we've played the whole year, probably the last month and into the playoffs. We just started playing our best ball and got hot at the right time.

Q. As someone who doesn't see your team much, being an American Leaguer, does your team regularly hit the ball up the middle as often as it has during the post-season?

DUSTY BAKER: You're not from Minnesota, are you? Where are you from?

Q. Texas.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it depends on the pitcher. A lot of times, you know, in our ballpark, with our alleys out there, it's in our best interest to hit the ball right up the middle, left center, right center. And we don't have a bunch of pull hitters on our team. So basically the guys are just hitting the way that they know how to hit.

Q. You picked Scott Eyre up on a waiver claim and he was good for you down the stretch; can you talk about him?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, our reports on him were good. Our advance scout, Pat Dobson had seen him pitch. We got some good words from Scott Eyre from Gary Matthews, Dave Stewart, one of the guys I think who had picked him up from the Chicago White Sox before they acquired him in Toronto. Our reports were good on him. They were so good; they said that he had -- his upside potential is outstanding and not only could he be a situation left-hander, but he has the potential of someday maybe being even a left-handed starter. So we are very pleased to have him. He's done a great job for us.

Q. Would you describe what the key to Ortiz's consistency is?

DUSTY BAKER: The key to his consistency is strikes. When he's throwing strikes like any other pitcher, and keeping the ball down. Also, earlier in the year, his mechanics were off and he had a couple different release points. The last -- I guess his last, whatever, seven, eight starts, he's had a very consistent release point and everything has come together as far as his rhythm is concerned. You know, everything is about rhythm and timing, and right now, he has a very good rhythm going.

Q. What has Pac Bell Park meant to your franchise, and is it a good idea to have a pitcher's park?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, to our franchise, it's meant 41,000 people every day, which equates to a lot more finances to do a lot more with. It equates to crowd noise. We have more of a sense of a tenth player now than ever before since the days at Candlestick. When we moved into the park, everybody thought it was going to be a hitter's park. That was the first thing that everybody talked about, our short porch in right field. Nobody knew it was going to be a pitcher's park. Everybody was predicting it was going to be an offensive park. They asked me at the time and I said that the people you need to ask are the construction workers that have been there over a 12-month period or more in the Bay Area because the weather changes so much. And the prevailing winds change from April to May to June. Now it's turned to more of a hitter's park now that we have our Indian Summer because there is no wind to prohibit balls from going out of the ballpark.

Q. You made the switch with Ortiz and Hernandez for Games 3 and 4. Would you explain that, and also, would you explain why you think Hernandez pitches so well in the spotlight?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, we made the switch because that keeps Russ on his normal rotation. We also discovered that Livan knows how to keep himself sharp with a long layoff, like he did between the championship season and the Division Series. And also, the fact that Livan is pitching in the twilight and Russ was pitching in the day. And also, that gives Russ the opportunity to potentially pitch a seventh game, and Livan in the twilight, changing speeds, is much more difficult to hit than a power pitcher.

Q. Did you have a sense that over the course of the season that the hitters were picking it up and getting more confidence?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean, I had a sense and I had an idea that this would happen, because we have an older club. I learned from the '78 Yankees that beat us in L.A., that an older club tends to get it together later than a younger club. Just like spring training; young guys in, two weeks, they are ready to go, where the older guys, it takes them longer to get their timing, and I had a sense that we could stay close and we were going to get hot in the second half and down the stretch, because like I said, we have an older club. I learned from the '78 Yankees that once they get it, that an older club tends to keep it longer and be more consistent once they get it, versus a younger club has a tendency to be more inconsistent.

Q. How key is it to keeping Vina off the bases, which you guys did last night after he had such a great Division Series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's very key. I mean, that's the key almost -- last night they didn't keep Kenny Lofton off. When you have your starter getting on base, which is your key man, your lead-off man, that puts the pitcher in the stretch. When the pitcher is in a stretch, most pitchers other than relievers don't throw as well out of the stretch as they do out of the wind-up. It was the same in Atlanta. If you can keep Furcal off-base; same with the Dodgers, if you can keep Roberts off base, then the pitcher tends to stay in the wind-up and not be in the stretch. Especially with the offense they have over there, you want to keep your pitcher in the wind-up as long as possible.

Q. Why is Santiago a good player hitting behind Bonds, and would you talk a little bit about what he has accomplished in that spot?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's actually through a process of elimination. I tried quite a few people hitting behind Barry. In the past, I had Jeff, but Jeff wasn't Jeff, really because he had a bad hand and it gets to you mentally when you're not coming through and you are trying too hard. I tried Sanders and J.T., but I didn't like two lefties back-to-back in the middle of the lineup there. Benito knows how to handle the bat. He can give in, go to right field, he can hit a home run, he can drive in runs, he can run a little bit. Like I said, through process of elimination. And Benito doesn't take it personal when they walk Barry and get upset and lose your head and try and hit a home run. I explained to him in that situation, all you need is a single or a double, and then you've done the damage because usually somebody is in scoring position. I didn't make that up on my own; that's what Hank Aaron told me when I was hitting behind him. I don't want to hear anybody complain about hitting behind him because nobody complained about me, a 22-year old kid hitting behind him.

Q. Last night the Cardinals seemed to get fired up after the altercation. Do you think there's any overflow for tonight?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't think so. Everybody's already fired up in the first place. Now, did they get fired up or was Kirk Rueter getting tired? Now, that's the question. So, these things happen. I mean, managers sometimes get kicked out of the game to fire up the club -- I've never done that. I don't know if that was the intent or if they were trying to pitch him inside. It just didn't look good at the time after the situation.

Q. Bob Watson has been out on the field talking to several people. Has your club been advised about no repeat incidents of last night?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I have not talked to Bob yet because I have been talking to you guys a lot. And so, I'm sure I'll see Bob when I get outside. He has not been in our clubhouse to explain anything. I just got a notice that I was fined, and then I'll talk to Bob when I get outside.

End of FastScripts...

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