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October 14, 2002

Dusty Baker


Q. Obviously, the strategy to intentionally walk Barry in the eighth inning, leading to another Benito production, has he been one of the bigger keys, as far as you guys getting to this point where you are on the verge of a World Series, a little production to get around Barry, that type of thing?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Benito did not start hitting behind Barry, I don't think, until the second half of the season. So he's been a big part of our late-season serge. First, Jeff Kent was hitting behind Barry, who had done a great job for four years; and then in the beginning Jeff had a bad hand, so he was not very productive in that spot like he had been in previous years. Then it sort of gets to your head; if you don't come through, you know, a number of times. And so we try tried a number of guys there. We had Reggie Sanders there, but in the beginning, it was Barry, then Jeff. Then the second half, it was Jeff and then Barry, and then we searched for a fifth hitter and Benito has done a great job in that spot. I think that's the second time, I think, that it's hurt. I think he hit a Grand Slam one time after they walked Barry to load the bases. Other than that, Benny has come through quite a few times with singles and doubles. If you look back upon the whole year and whoever has batted behind Barry, that strategy has worked probably 100:5. So that's a pretty good percentage and a ratio.

Q. To what do you attribute the durability of your rotation this year? And also, some great hitters who became managers had trouble understanding pitchers in that role. What's allowed you to learn and understand your pitchers?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think, No. 1, you've got to give our training and fitness staff a great deal of credit for our durability, which over the past five or six years, we have been among the leaders in baseball, as far as lack of DL time. I think a lot of that has to do with the shape that they are in. They stay in shape during the winter. We try not to overpitch them. Knock on wood, we have had a great history of not having arm operations and not having guys be on the DL with sore arms on our team. When you are operating on a mid-budget, we can't afford, really, for guys to be missing time on the DL. You've got to give Dave Righetti a tremendous amount of credit for when they throw in between starts, how much they throw, how much they run and how they stay in shape physically through the course of the year. As far as the second part of the question, I don't consider myself a great hitter. I consider myself a good clutch hitter, a good hitter, and in order to do that, you have to understand pitchers. You have to be tolerant to the point where you do understand your pitchers and take time to understand them, as well as to depend on my pitching coach, Dave Righetti, in a lot of situations when I ask him, what's your opinion of what do we do here, what do we do there, what do you think. I trust my staff and I try to let them do their job, and, you know, not try to micromanage everything in every department.

Q. The Giants said in the off-season that resigning Jason Schmidt was one of the most important things they needed to do. Can you evaluate his performance this year related to that?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, what Jason gives us is a potential No. 1 starter in the making. Then you have Russ, also, in that same mold. You've got Livan that's been the No. 1 starter, and so Jason Schmidt, other than that first month, if you put him in our rotation that first month and his arm is healthy, he would have had, easily 220, 225 innings. I mean, quality innings, not just eating up innings -- I'm not crazy about this that terminology because guys that eat up innings, tend to eat up innings to save the bullpen, but not win. He gives us both. He eats up innings, and at the same time, he's one of the few pitchers on our staff, in our starting staff, that's a strikeout pitcher. He can get in and out of trouble, strike himself out of trouble, whether it's an error or walk or whatever. There are not that many guys around that's capable of doing that.

Q. I know you are more concerned about the Cardinals right now, but with the other series over, did you pay enough attention to the Angels, and what do you see as the challenges that they represent to whoever wins this series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I pay attention to most series. I do my own scouting. I watch baseball. I watch baseball at home. I watch it here in my office. You're right, No. 1 thing, we cannot overlook that we need one more game. Just because you're up 3-1, you don't have anything won until you win that fourth game, hopefully tonight in the final out of that ninth inning. Certainly, when the Twins were playing the Angels, we were obviously scouting both of them. The Angels are a team that doesn't quit. They can score a lot of runs. They don't strike out. They can put the ball in play. They have a fundamentally sound team defensively, offensively, good team speed, good young bullpen that nobody knows that much about, and young pitchers, which is to their advantage, and most people don't know that much about them. Also, they have some of my former teammates over there that really know me. I played with Mike Scioscia. I played with Alfredo Griffin. I played with Mickey Hatcher. I played with Ron Roenicke. Buddy Black was my teammate here when I was a coach and a manager. They have a very good staff, and I'm sure their team is going to be well prepared when the World Series starts. I talked to Buddy Black today, and he wouldn't tell me too much. (Laughter.) I was congratulating him on getting there, but it's time to do a little spying work, too, at the same time. He wasn't falling for it.

Q. Shawon Dunston obviously did not get off to that good of a start this year, was there ever a point where it was tough for you to keep showing faith in him? Secondly, Tony La Russa said he would not be surprised if he was still playing ten years from now. What do you think about that?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't think it was that difficult to keep Shawon in the lineup because he's a guy that is much needed on your team. The only thing is, when you get off to a poor start where you are used sparingly, every out that you make it like an 0-for-10 or -20 for the average guy that's going to get 500 at-bats. Once you get in the hole, you don't get the opportunity of a solid week to come out of it. Shawon Dunston still in my mind is going to come up big because he has the skill. He still can play. He still has the desire. I would not be surprised if he won a couple of big games for us tonight or tomorrow, whatever, in the World Series or whenever. And also, the fact remains that, you know, we were injured big-time. There was a time period there when we didn't have a choice, actually. We had Ramon Martinez in the outfield at one time, who had never played the outfield in the big leagues. We went through a period where we really needed Dunston. A know a lot of people didn't understand or whatever, but he is a winner and he's tried -- he's played his whole career to get to this point right now. As far as ten years from now, he has the body for it, but he'll be 49. I don't know anybody that played 49, maybe, except Satchel Paige.

Q. Going back to the Angels, you were a teammate when Scioscia first got to the big leagues. What kind of impressions did he make on you then, and are you surprised to see the success that he's having now?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, he was my locker partner. He was willing to learn always. He's very aggressive. He's not afraid. But he's also very calculative in his moves, but he also uses his natural instincts and the ability to manage the same way that he played and the same way he called the game. I remember when he first came up, his mentor, so to speak, was Roy Campanella. He used to come by his locker every day, when he did something right or wrong, in his wheelchair and somebody would demonstrate how to block the ball, how to block the plate, what he should have called in this situation or that situation. That's why I liked having those guys, veteran players around, because they can put your players on an accelerated learning curve and thought process. As far as Mike Scioscia being a manager, I never thought about it. He probably never thought about me being a manager, because at that time we were just trying too play. You don't think about managing while you're playing, especially when you're an everyday, regular player.

Q. Can you describe your thought process in giving Goodwin a start today and how important is it to have a player like that on your roster?

DUSTY BAKER: It's very important to have a Tom Goodwin on your roster. He can run. He learned how to pinch-hit this year for the first time and did a great job for us, won a number of ballgames. He can play all three outfield positions. He knows how to stay ready. He doesn't complain if he doesn't play a week or ten days. He stays ready. My thought process with playing him today was the fact that he's 4-for-6 off Morris. I didn't play him in St. Louis against Morris, even though I know Reggie has not had a hit off Morris, because their outfield is so fast that Reggie throws -- he's one of the top throwers in the League; that it would be difficult to keep the opposition from going from first to third or stretching doubles sometimes in that big, massive ballpark. Where in this ballpark, it's not as prevalent with our short right field porch, and batting him behind Benito today, he is a good two-out RBI man when you need a single. And also, if Benito does not come through, he's a good leadoff man to get on first base and put pressure on the opposition. I can do a number of things with J.T. hitting behind him, who has not had success on Morris, hopefully he can get good pitches to hit with Goodwin there. Hopefully I can do a lot more things.

Q. Are you nervous?

DUSTY BAKER: Am I nervous? Yeah, a little bit. But like Hank Aaron told me, he said, "It's okay to be nervous, but never be scared." He said nerves are a natural part of playing this game, but once the first pitch is thrown, the nerves subside and you come down to a point where you play the game.

End of FastScripts�.

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