Dusty Baker joined Mark Patrick and Orestes Destrade on Tuesday Morning on XM Radio’s morning show. Dusty was supposed to join them on Monday and was unable to do so. Baker was in his usual good spirits and the three of them talked about a variety of Cubs topics including: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, David Aardsma, the Bullpen, Juan Pierre, Angel Pagan and the keys to the 2006 season.
Here is some of what Dusty had to say…. The truck for Chicago leaves on Wednesday and all of the players are bringing bags for them to take back to Chicago….camp breaks on Thursday. This is a very exciting time of year for the fans but it is very tough for the Cubs management because of having to tell players that they are cut and did not make the team. The players that are on the bubble do not know what to do, they do not know whether to send their stuff to Chicago or Iowa or somewhere else. While hope does spring eternal, it could mean realty to those players that do not make the final cut. It is a very difficult time….where do you live?
The bullpen was the next topic and Dusty is very happy with what he has seen out of the pen. He said Bobby Howry needs to learn the league a little bit but that Scott Eyre has done a good job and reminded everyone that he was with him in San Francisco. Dusty said they are quality guys and they both know how to pitch and get the opposite hitters out….he does not have to worry about match-ups with Howry and Eyre and he can use them for an entire inning.
The conversation then switched to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. When asked about the timetable on their return, Dusty said that right now Wood is probably ahead of Prior with the time that Prior missed. Wood has been throwing and the only setback was the knee surgery. Wade Miller is not to far behind Woody and quickly stated Prior could come back a little faster….it just depends on his soreness. Carlos Zambrano is the workhorse for the Cubs and loves to pitch and compete. Dusty said that he pegged Zambrano as being the possible ace of the staff when he first came to Chicago. Zambrano has learned how to pitch and has learned to command the strike zone and now its just a matter of him learning how to command himself just a little bit….but that’s what makes him good, that is Zambrano and the Cubs like to see it but he needs to harness it. According to Baker it is easier to calm someone down than it is to try to pick him up or make him into a person that he is not. Dusty would rather have more players like Zambrano.
Dusty realizes that the future of Jim Hendry and himself rely on how many games Dusty wins this season. Dusty said he has been a lame duck manager before and this is nothing new for him. Dusty accepts the responsibility to win games and complimented Hendry on the moves he made in the off-season. Dusty said the Cubs are going to win and that will take the pressure off of everyone. Dusty has confidence that the Cubs will win and the Cubs will get the breaks this season that they have not gotten the past two years. This is the Cubs year….according to Dusty.
Dusty spoke about the additions of Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones and he said the Cubs are now more athletic, have more speed….and are younger than in previous years.
The young guys in the spring played well and Dusty mentioned how good Felix Pie will be in the league and how well he did in the spring. Sean Marshall could make the starting rotation and Rich Hill has a chance as well. Angel Guzman is on the rise but is not ready yet. Dusty likes David Aardsma and Roberto Novoa and said that people will enjoy watching them pitch.
Angel Pagan has really impressed a lot of people this spring. Dusty said he can really play, switch hitter with a lot of speed. Dusty thinks he will be a tremendous player. Mark Patrick asked if Pagan will be on the team when they head for Chicago and Dusty said he could not tell him (Patrick) because he has not told Pagan anything yet. Mark Patrick wanted the scoop of the day. Dusty said if Pagan is not on the club there will be a lot of upset people.
Orestes Destrade asked Dusty what he thought the key to the upcoming season was and reminded everyone how close the Cubs had been over the past couple of seasons. Dusty’s response was pitching….you have to have pitching….and late inning pitching. He went on to explain that this is the best bullpen the Cubs have had since he has been in Chicago. Dusty said that if he had this bullpen in 2003, the Cubs would have won the World Series. Dusty added that Juan Pierre is a big key as well. Pierre is a proven leadoff hitter and that is so important and every team that wins has that. Dusty explained how excited he is about the upcoming season and he feels the Cubs have all the pieces in place. The players just have to stay healthy and perform.
It was a very good interview and I hope he is right….Opening Day is Monday!!!