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Oct. 8 Dusty Baker pregame interview

MLB.com

Q. Espinosa in the lineup, you have stuck with him, it seems like no matter what, since the All-Star Break, he has not really hit at all, and his defense, you keep playing him, what's the reason?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, who else do I have. That's my answer. I mean, you can give me somebody better, then I can play somebody instead of him. You know, certain times you have certain people on your team and that's what you've got.

You know, my job is to hopefully get the most out of them and make them better.

Q. Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen yesterday, what can you tell us about it? How did he come out of it?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, Mike Maddux said that it was a real good bullpen. He said he threw 25 pitches. Said he was coming out good and he was very positive about the whole thing. That's a good sign. When and if he'll be back; I can't say. But the fact is that Mike was happy with what he saw.

Q. When did you kind of come to terms with the fact that you weren't going to have Stephen for the series? Did you know kind of right away that he wasn't going to be here?

DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah. We knew that probably shortly after the injury. You know, because you start adding and figuring how long it's going to take to build him back up and you start seeing the fact that you're running out of time. And so then you start making plans to be without him.

You know, we can wish and hope that somebody's there, but in reality, sooner or later, you're going to realize that they are not going to be here. So you have to make alternative plans.

Q. Last night was your first playoff game here in D.C. What did you think of the overall atmosphere, the ballpark, just the crowd in general?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I loved it. I tell you, wish it was like that every day. You know, it's like that every day at a few places. I love the sea of red, a lot more red than blue.

You know, made us feel good. It was a great atmosphere. It was a great atmosphere, and we want to, you know, do something to show our appreciation to our home fans, like win today.

Q. Obviously you're making some decisions about closers all week in the playoffs; how does the post-season change your philosophy on when to use a closer, what situations to bring him into the game?

DUSTY BAKER: Like last night, we wanted to hold the game where it was, because we know they had Jansen in there and the chances of you scoring two or three runs off him isn't real good. So last night was a situation where we wanted to keep the score where it was, you know, to give us an opportunity and a chance.

You know, right before the season ended, I think we went an inning and a third, or an inning and two-thirds, with Melancon sort of preparing for the playoffs, much like they did Jansen last night, and much like you've seen Cleveland and some of the other games, that you aren't as worried about tomorrow as you are during the regular season. Because during the regular season, you could be playing 18, 20 games in a row and so you have to space guys out to have them for that total period.

Here, you're going two days, and then you're off a day. Then you go two more days and then you're off a day, and that's something that you don't -- a luxury that you don't have during the season.

Q. Have you had a sense, talking about everything Tanner that's been through over the last year or so, do you have a sense of what it means to him to be taking the ball tonight in Game 2 here?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I haven't talked to him about it. I really don't know everything that Tanner's been through. I mean, you guys probably know that better than I.

All I know is when I talked to him initially, when I took the job, trying to find out about each player, each person, their aspirations and where they feel most comfortable, and I asked him, Are you a starter or a reliever, which one would you rather do?

And he told me he wanted to start.

So I said, Okay, I'm going to give you every opportunity to start. And I couldn't understand a guy who wins 15 games his rookie year and the next year he's in the pen, but I didn't know that that was the same year that they had, I guess Fister and Scherzer, which is the reason he went to the pen.

This guy, he's a horse. He's a warrior. We feel very comfortable with him on the mound. We know that he's going to fight you every turn and every inning of the game.

Q. When did you learn about the way Bryce carry's himself, and is he somebody who uses body language to show how he's playing at a certain time?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's everybody. When you're playing good, your head's up high. I don't see anybody hanging their head when things are going good in the world. But when things are going not as good, I mean, you still hold your head up and still hold your shoulders back, but you know, it's natural to have some head drops every once in a while. You don't have any head drops when you're on top of the world.

You know, you're actually living in the clouds when you're on top of the world. When you're not, baseball has a way of humbling you to bring you back to the ground before it takes you back to the clouds again. And so, I'm sure it's been tough. It's probably the first time in his life that he struggled like this.

But he has confidence. The one thing that Bryce is not lacking, is confidence. And sometimes I think people can misconstrue that as arrogance, which it's not. He's a fine young man and I enjoy being around him. He's very respectful.

But hey, man, when I was 23 years old, access to millions and maybe more, it's tough to stay grounded. Like I've talked to him before, I said, "Hey, man, it's not easy being Bryce Harper." Because, you know, he can't eat or sleep or drink any place or do anything; he doesn't drink, but you can't do anything without always constantly having people around you at such a young age, so it's difficult.

Sometimes you're a prisoner in your own world, and that's difficult sometimes.

Q. What did you think of the way that Bryce was attacked by the Dodgers yesterday with a lot of pitches away, specifically from, say, Dayton in that at-bat late in the game?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'll put it to you this way. The Dodgers have been scouting us for a couple weeks, and so they sort of follow suit on what other people have done. I mean, I can see the way they attacked some guys with just breaking balls, and they attacked other guys with high fastballs. I mean, this is what scouting is really all about.

So I wasn't surprised on how they attacked him yesterday. Now it's up to us, once we know their game plan, it's up to us to counteract their game plan and do something different.

Q. A few of you guys have faced Rich Hill and have had success --

DUSTY BAKER: Man, I didn't recognize -- (laughter) it's the same voice, but no beard.

Q. A few of you guys have had success against Rich Hill, but he's a different pitcher than when they faced him. Does that experience matter?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I haven't seen Rich in years personally. You know, having success does matter, some, I mean, psychologically.

But you know, I had Rich Hill in Chicago. And then he was a real young man at that time, and then he bounced around. I followed him in Boston and other places where he'd been. I mean, I'm glad for him, because he's a good kid -- not a kid anymore, but he's a fine young man.

That being said, I'm rooting for him when we're not playing him. You always root for the guys that you had, especially when they were young. But also, I'm curious to see, is there any difference in him now and before, and I'm hoping that he can continue to have success, because we need this game today.

Q. Because of the familiarity that you have with Rich, even if it does go back some years, is there anything you'd like the umpires to keep an eye on today?

DUSTY BAKER: No, come on, man (laughter). Well, all left-handers, you've got to keep an eye on them.

Like I said, I haven't seen Rich in -- I haven't seen him pitch in years. Since you mentioned it, yeah, I'm going to go and look at some video and see what I can find (chuckles) (laughter).

Q. How do you feel like Trea Turner handled his first post-season game last night, and even if it's just one game, does that make a difference?

DUSTY BAKER: Every game you play in the playoffs, it helps you towards gaining experience and gaining some knowledge and also some relaxation. I mean, it's hard your first playoff. The whole world's eyes are on you. A lot of these guys are used to playing in front of TV and the world, but, yeah, I'm not going to critique his every game.

Everybody at some point in time is where Trea is right now. Whether you're 30 years old or whether you're 23 years old, everybody had their first playoff. And I think this is -- we were standing on the line last night during the introductions, and I said, "Hey, man, this is going to be one of many for you."

And he said, "Yeah." So this is the sort of hopefully, you know, many playoffs for him.

Q. You have had Difo for two months; what are things that you like about him and what is his potential? Could he be a regular sometime soon?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes. Well, I don't know how soon, and depends on what we have and what we need. You know, everybody can't be a regular. Sometimes you've got to wait your turn.

I really like Difo. He hasn't played that many Minor League games, but he's advanced rather quickly. And I have confidence in Difo: He can run, he's a good fielder. I'm not afraid to put him up there in a pinch-hit situation either way.

You know, he has a few things to learn, but he's not afraid. And you know, he's excited, excited to play. I mean, that's easier to calm down a guy that's excited to play than a guy that you've got to push to excite.

Yeah, I think Difo, I mean, he has a very high ceiling, and I think we'll see it sometime.

Q. I know it's only one game, but how did you like the way your lineup played splitting up Murphy and Harper, and you had talked about Zimm a lot, and he probably hit the ball harder than anybody yesterday.

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, he did. I liked way they performed. Again, you know, I'm greedy. As a manager, the same problem that we had yesterday, same problem we've had most of the year, was driving in runners in scoring position. If we do that, then we win.

So I'm just hoping that -- we got plenty of hits and we had plenty of guys on base. They battled. Their bats were tough at-bats. They were grinding at-bats. All we need now is hopefully find some holes.

Q. Whether it's Difo or Trea, they are new to the big stage in post-season; is there a particular piece of advice you remember getting when you were a young buck back in the day that you find yourself imparting to guys like that?

DUSTY BAKER: I just tell them to slow the game down, as much as you can, because this game, it goes by so quickly and things happen very quickly.

You know, sometimes people say, how come you didn't get anybody up. Well, it took eight pitches for them to score four runs. And sometimes it's like a feeding frenzy, when things happen quickly, and especially in the case of Severino, I told him, you have to slow down when things are kind of panicked; that's why they the 20-second time out, that's why have time outs in basketball because things happen so quickly, that, bam, all of a sudden you can go to the bathroom, come back and it's a ten-point lead by one team or the other. That's how it happens in this sport.

That's my advice is to slow down and breathe. I know that's easy -- half the time when they are breathing, they are hyperventilating and then you're not getting proper oxygen to your brain and then you panic. So you have to take your time and slow down and breathe.

Q. Stephen Drew, since he got off the bench, he has not had as much time at shortstop. Are there any effects of his dizziness?

DUSTY BAKER: No, but he was playing second because Murph was out and you can't play both of them. With Murph being out and trying to get Stephen as many at-bats as I could, which I did, and Stephen's done a great job for us. I played Stephen as much as I could on my bench.

But Stephen came here as an extra player. You know, he didn't come here as a regular and when you get to a certain age. I don't know if he, you know, could play as a regular for five, six days in a row without breaking down.

Stephen's done a great job for us. Whenever I call upon him, and he's going to be, you know, a big guy in these playoffs, too.

Q. Espinosa in the lineup, you have stuck with him, it seems like no matter what, since the All-Star Break, he has not really hit at all, and his defense, you keep playing him, what's the reason?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, who else do I have. That's my answer. I mean, you can give me somebody better, then I can play somebody instead of him. You know, certain times you have certain people on your team and that's what you've got.

You know, my job is to hopefully get the most out of them and make them better.

Q. Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen yesterday, what can you tell us about it? How did he come out of it?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, Mike Maddux said that it was a real good bullpen. He said he threw 25 pitches. Said he was coming out good and he was very positive about the whole thing. That's a good sign. When and if he'll be back; I can't say. But the fact is that Mike was happy with what he saw.

Q. When did you kind of come to terms with the fact that you weren't going to have Stephen for the series? Did you know kind of right away that he wasn't going to be here?

DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah. We knew that probably shortly after the injury. You know, because you start adding and figuring how long it's going to take to build him back up and you start seeing the fact that you're running out of time. And so then you start making plans to be without him.

You know, we can wish and hope that somebody's there, but in reality, sooner or later, you're going to realize that they are not going to be here. So you have to make alternative plans.

Q. Last night was your first playoff game here in D.C. What did you think of the overall atmosphere, the ballpark, just the crowd in general?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I loved it. I tell you, wish it was like that every day. You know, it's like that every day at a few places. I love the sea of red, a lot more red than blue.

You know, made us feel good. It was a great atmosphere. It was a great atmosphere, and we want to, you know, do something to show our appreciation to our home fans, like win today.

Q. Obviously you're making some decisions about closers all week in the playoffs; how does the post-season change your philosophy on when to use a closer, what situations to bring him into the game?

DUSTY BAKER: Like last night, we wanted to hold the game where it was, because we know they had Jansen in there and the chances of you scoring two or three runs off him isn't real good. So last night was a situation where we wanted to keep the score where it was, you know, to give us an opportunity and a chance.

You know, right before the season ended, I think we went an inning and a third, or an inning and two-thirds, with Melancon sort of preparing for the playoffs, much like they did Jansen last night, and much like you've seen Cleveland and some of the other games, that you aren't as worried about tomorrow as you are during the regular season. Because during the regular season, you could be playing 18, 20 games in a row and so you have to space guys out to have them for that total period.

Here, you're going two days, and then you're off a day. Then you go two more days and then you're off a day, and that's something that you don't -- a luxury that you don't have during the season.

Q. Have you had a sense, talking about everything Tanner that's been through over the last year or so, do you have a sense of what it means to him to be taking the ball tonight in Game 2 here?

DUSTY BAKER: No, I haven't talked to him about it. I really don't know everything that Tanner's been through. I mean, you guys probably know that better than I.

All I know is when I talked to him initially, when I took the job, trying to find out about each player, each person, their aspirations and where they feel most comfortable, and I asked him, Are you a starter or a reliever, which one would you rather do?

And he told me he wanted to start.

So I said, Okay, I'm going to give you every opportunity to start. And I couldn't understand a guy who wins 15 games his rookie year and the next year he's in the pen, but I didn't know that that was the same year that they had, I guess Fister and Scherzer, which is the reason he went to the pen.

This guy, he's a horse. He's a warrior. We feel very comfortable with him on the mound. We know that he's going to fight you every turn and every inning of the game.

Q. When did you learn about the way Bryce carry's himself, and is he somebody who uses body language to show how he's playing at a certain time?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's everybody. When you're playing good, your head's up high. I don't see anybody hanging their head when things are going good in the world. But when things are going not as good, I mean, you still hold your head up and still hold your shoulders back, but you know, it's natural to have some head drops every once in a while. You don't have any head drops when you're on top of the world.

You know, you're actually living in the clouds when you're on top of the world. When you're not, baseball has a way of humbling you to bring you back to the ground before it takes you back to the clouds again. And so, I'm sure it's been tough. It's probably the first time in his life that he struggled like this.

But he has confidence. The one thing that Bryce is not lacking, is confidence. And sometimes I think people can misconstrue that as arrogance, which it's not. He's a fine young man and I enjoy being around him. He's very respectful.

But hey, man, when I was 23 years old, access to millions and maybe more, it's tough to stay grounded. Like I've talked to him before, I said, "Hey, man, it's not easy being Bryce Harper." Because, you know, he can't eat or sleep or drink any place or do anything; he doesn't drink, but you can't do anything without always constantly having people around you at such a young age, so it's difficult.

Sometimes you're a prisoner in your own world, and that's difficult sometimes.

Q. What did you think of the way that Bryce was attacked by the Dodgers yesterday with a lot of pitches away, specifically from, say, Dayton in that at-bat late in the game?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'll put it to you this way. The Dodgers have been scouting us for a couple weeks, and so they sort of follow suit on what other people have done. I mean, I can see the way they attacked some guys with just breaking balls, and they attacked other guys with high fastballs. I mean, this is what scouting is really all about.

So I wasn't surprised on how they attacked him yesterday. Now it's up to us, once we know their game plan, it's up to us to counteract their game plan and do something different.

Q. A few of you guys have faced Rich Hill and have had success --

DUSTY BAKER: Man, I didn't recognize -- (laughter) it's the same voice, but no beard.

Q. A few of you guys have had success against Rich Hill, but he's a different pitcher than when they faced him. Does that experience matter?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I haven't seen Rich in years personally. You know, having success does matter, some, I mean, psychologically.

But you know, I had Rich Hill in Chicago. And then he was a real young man at that time, and then he bounced around. I followed him in Boston and other places where he'd been. I mean, I'm glad for him, because he's a good kid -- not a kid anymore, but he's a fine young man.

That being said, I'm rooting for him when we're not playing him. You always root for the guys that you had, especially when they were young. But also, I'm curious to see, is there any difference in him now and before, and I'm hoping that he can continue to have success, because we need this game today.

Q. Because of the familiarity that you have with Rich, even if it does go back some years, is there anything you'd like the umpires to keep an eye on today?

DUSTY BAKER: No, come on, man (laughter). Well, all left-handers, you've got to keep an eye on them.

Like I said, I haven't seen Rich in -- I haven't seen him pitch in years. Since you mentioned it, yeah, I'm going to go and look at some video and see what I can find (chuckles) (laughter).

Q. How do you feel like Trea Turner handled his first post-season game last night, and even if it's just one game, does that make a difference?

DUSTY BAKER: Every game you play in the playoffs, it helps you towards gaining experience and gaining some knowledge and also some relaxation. I mean, it's hard your first playoff. The whole world's eyes are on you. A lot of these guys are used to playing in front of TV and the world, but, yeah, I'm not going to critique his every game.

Everybody at some point in time is where Trea is right now. Whether you're 30 years old or whether you're 23 years old, everybody had their first playoff. And I think this is -- we were standing on the line last night during the introductions, and I said, "Hey, man, this is going to be one of many for you."

And he said, "Yeah." So this is the sort of hopefully, you know, many playoffs for him.

Q. You have had Difo for two months; what are things that you like about him and what is his potential? Could he be a regular sometime soon?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes. Well, I don't know how soon, and depends on what we have and what we need. You know, everybody can't be a regular. Sometimes you've got to wait your turn.

I really like Difo. He hasn't played that many Minor League games, but he's advanced rather quickly. And I have confidence in Difo: He can run, he's a good fielder. I'm not afraid to put him up there in a pinch-hit situation either way.

You know, he has a few things to learn, but he's not afraid. And you know, he's excited, excited to play. I mean, that's easier to calm down a guy that's excited to play than a guy that you've got to push to excite.

Yeah, I think Difo, I mean, he has a very high ceiling, and I think we'll see it sometime.

Q. I know it's only one game, but how did you like the way your lineup played splitting up Murphy and Harper, and you had talked about Zimm a lot, and he probably hit the ball harder than anybody yesterday.

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, he did. I liked way they performed. Again, you know, I'm greedy. As a manager, the same problem that we had yesterday, same problem we've had most of the year, was driving in runners in scoring position. If we do that, then we win.

So I'm just hoping that -- we got plenty of hits and we had plenty of guys on base. They battled. Their bats were tough at-bats. They were grinding at-bats. All we need now is hopefully find some holes.

Q. Whether it's Difo or Trea, they are new to the big stage in post-season; is there a particular piece of advice you remember getting when you were a young buck back in the day that you find yourself imparting to guys like that?

DUSTY BAKER: I just tell them to slow the game down, as much as you can, because this game, it goes by so quickly and things happen very quickly.

You know, sometimes people say, how come you didn't get anybody up. Well, it took eight pitches for them to score four runs. And sometimes it's like a feeding frenzy, when things happen quickly, and especially in the case of Severino, I told him, you have to slow down when things are kind of panicked; that's why they the 20-second time out, that's why have time outs in basketball because things happen so quickly, that, bam, all of a sudden you can go to the bathroom, come back and it's a ten-point lead by one team or the other. That's how it happens in this sport.

That's my advice is to slow down and breathe. I know that's easy -- half the time when they are breathing, they are hyperventilating and then you're not getting proper oxygen to your brain and then you panic. So you have to take your time and slow down and breathe.

Q. Stephen Drew, since he got off the bench, he has not had as much time at shortstop. Are there any effects of his dizziness?

DUSTY BAKER: No, but he was playing second because Murph was out and you can't play both of them. With Murph being out and trying to get Stephen as many at-bats as I could, which I did, and Stephen's done a great job for us. I played Stephen as much as I could on my bench.

But Stephen came here as an extra player. You know, he didn't come here as a regular and when you get to a certain age. I don't know if he, you know, could play as a regular for five, six days in a row without breaking down.

Stephen's done a great job for us. Whenever I call upon him, and he's going to be, you know, a big guy in these playoffs, too.