Dodgers hope to rebuild Baez's confidence

Right-hander struggled in September last season and was left off postseason roster

February 18th, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This story is about .

Don't boo.

He heard enough of that from Dodgers fans when summoned from the bullpen, and even more when he was removed from games during a September that saw his ERA jump from 1.79 to 2.95.

• Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

He was left off the postseason roster after losing his setup job to , who parlayed the opportunity into a $21 million deal from the Cubs. Meanwhile, the hard-throwing Baez is back, and he said his confidence is, too, which is no slam dunk when you've become the hometown whipping boy.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I believe in myself," said Baez, who turns 30 next month. "I feel 100 percent. I'm confident I can help and have a good season."

Charlie Hough remembers what it was like when traditionally docile Dodgers fans turned on him. He was effectively booed out of town via a 1980 trade to Texas, where he resurrected his knuckleballing career that lasted another 14 years.

"You just keep going," said Hough, a Dodgers senior advisor who tells pitchers who face the wrath of local fans. "It's tough when that happens. You hate it. You don't necessarily blame the people at times you don't pitch well. But you just got to get through it.

"You have to realize people want your team to win. And you can't try to strike the fans out, you know what I mean? You have to keep the concentration level to the team you're playing against. And it's hard to do. I know, I went through it. But, you get them out a few times and the fans will be with you."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said his priority is to rebuild Baez's confidence.

"Obviously, he was a big part of what we did the entire season," Roberts said. "I know he was disappointed not being on the postseason roster, rightfully so. As far as the fan reception, all he's known is this organization. He cares about this team, he cares about the fans. To hear the way he was received, I know I was sensitive to it. I hope it doesn't have any ill effects."

Dodgers fans rarely turn on their players, but there have been notable exceptions. Steve Sax heard it when he developed throwing yips. Mike Piazza took fan flak during a public airing of his contract battle. Andruw Jones showed up out of shape, then said he didn't care what the fans thought of him, but they told him anyway.

Baez said he's ready to win back the support, as well as a significant bullpen role.

"I worked physically and mentally over the winter at the academy in the Dominican," he said. "I missed a lot of pitches last year and I lost focus, that was a big part of that."

Baez said being left off the postseason roster is added motivation for a rebound.

"I don't ever want to be in that situation again," Baez said. "I felt like I could help, but it was a decision that was made and a decision I have to respect. You keep working and try to avoid it happening again."