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Baker to keep things loose in Nats' clubhouse

Veteran manager believes in family-like atmosphere with his players
MLB.com

VIERA, Fla. -- Before the start of the Nationals' first full-squad workout of the spring on Thursday, and during his first address to a full clubhouse as manager, Dusty Baker took a moment to make fun of himself.

Baker has accidentally referred to Bryce Harper, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, as "Royce" twice in the past week. So Baker introduced Harper to the room as Royce -- "we got a new player."

VIERA, Fla. -- Before the start of the Nationals' first full-squad workout of the spring on Thursday, and during his first address to a full clubhouse as manager, Dusty Baker took a moment to make fun of himself.

Baker has accidentally referred to Bryce Harper, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, as "Royce" twice in the past week. So Baker introduced Harper to the room as Royce -- "we got a new player."

Baker admitted he often calls people by the wrong name, dating to his days in the military when everyone goes by their last name. Baker's wife, Melissa, even suggested he refer to Harper as "Harp."

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"I don't know if I know him well enough to call him, Harp," Baker said. "I'm like 'honey, I don't know if he likes Harp.'"

The moment exemplified the type of manager Baker is and the type of clubhouse environment the Nats and his former players have sworn he creates: loose, relaxed and fun. Many teams will boast about a change in clubhouse culture during the coming weeks, and just one week in, it is nearly impossible to tell for sure or how long it will last. But one of Baker's greatest tasks this season will be attempting to erase the sour ending to the Nationals' 2015 season and create a looser environment in the clubhouse.

Video: Baker excited for first year with Nationals

"He speaks the truth and that's what I love about him," third baseman Anthony Rendon said. "He's going to come in and he's going to tell you what you want to hear and maybe what you don't want to hear. He's going to tell you how he feels and where he thinks this ballclub should go. That's what you want in a manager."

Baker summed up his general message to the team in two parts, "play like a champion and think like a family."

"You hope your family loves each other," Baker said. "And like a family, you don't get along all the time. But guess what? You're still family."

Baker added that the key to being a family was for players to start spending time together, so he was happy to hear that a group of players were going to watch the NBA's Golden State Warriors play against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. However, Baker declined to join them for the game.

But he added with a smile: "I sure wouldn't mind starting off like the Warriors did this year."

Jayson Werth showed up sick to camp on Thursday morning, so the Nationals sent him home to avoid it spreading through the rest of the team.

Baker said he hopes Werth will be able to participate in Friday's workout.

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals