HOUSTON – Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker have managed head-to-head in 201 games prior to this weekend’s four-game set, with La Russa holding a 102-99 edge.
They also were teammates during La Russa’s brief big league stop with the Braves in 1971. But people might forget Baker’s last days as a player came during La Russa’s debut as Oakland manager in 1986.
“They were struggling being in the West. (Pitching coach Dave) Duncan and I knew they were better, but they were in a rut,” said La Russa during his Thursday Zoom. “The club righted itself because in part of the leadership of Dusty, Carney Lansford, Dave Kingman, they really got solidly into it.
“I like talking about Dusty because the old saying is guys who become OK managers were really horrible players and they use me as an example. I was taught by Sparky (Anderson) and those guys, you just have to be somebody who loves and wants to learn it. Dusty, Don Baylor, Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia, those guys were really good players and became really good managers.”
Baker celebrated his 72nd birthday on June 15 while La Russa will turn 77 in October. Thursday’s game marked the first in the Majors with two managers over 70 years of age since Aug. 2, 2006, when San Francisco's Felipe Alou (71) faced off against Washington's Frank Robinson (70), per Elias.
La Russa and Baker rank 1-2 among active managers in victories with La Russa sitting No. 2 all-time at 2,771 and Baker checking in at 1,931. They have combined to manage in 196 postseason contests, with La Russa featuring a 70-58 mark and Baker at 31-37. They last managed against each other on Sept. 4, 2011, which resulted in a 3-2 victory for Baker and the Reds at Busch Stadium.
“Dusty and I have had a long relationship,” La Russa said. “The only time there were sparks was when we were in the same division when he was in Cincinnati and Chicago. Glad he’s in the western division.
“He’s like anybody else you respect. Be glad when the series is over.”
Kelley on the mend
Jared Kelley, the No. 1 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, experienced some elbow soreness after a side session following his last start for Class A Kannapolis on May 22 against Columbia. The White Sox wanted to be cautious and “quiet the soreness down,” according to the team, before he continued throwing.
There was nothing more than some minor inflammation, and according to the White Sox, the right-hander is now completely asymptomatic. He has begun throwing again, and after he is appropriately built back up, he’ll return to the mound for game action.
Kelley, 19, was the team’s second-round pick in the 2020 Draft and worked at the team’s alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill., last season. He has a 9.00 ERA over four Minor League starts, with 12 strikeouts and 10 walks in eight innings pitched.
Keuchel praises Rodón
Dallas Keuchel held court with the Houston media prior to Thursday’s game in his first official return to the place where he pitched so capably for seven seasons. The southpaw will pitch in Sunday’s series finale, with Carlos Rodón getting the call Friday.
Rodón has impressed his teammate and friend with his All-Star-level success in ’21.
“Outside of being healthy, I think it’s just confidence and repetition,” Keuchel said of Rodón. “Coming first-hand, it’s hard to repeat properly in a good space when you are constantly worrying about something or your arm or a big component of what drives you to be consistent.
“He is overpowering guys, but it’s not just that. He’s actually commanding the baseball with three pitches. You really don’t give the hitters a lot to work with when you are blowing consistently 97 (mph) like he was (vs. Detroit).”
Keuchel thought Rodón was “10 times more impressive” during that one-hitter against the Tigers than his no-hitter against Cleveland on April 14.
Third to first
• Former White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham is filling in for Steve Stone as the television analyst on the White Sox broadcasts for the Houston series.
• La Russa spent time talking with fellow Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson before the start of White Sox batting practice Thursday. Shortstop Tim Anderson and designated hitter Yermín Mercedes also joined in the on-field conversation at different points.
They Said It
“We have high aspirations for this season and the first step for achieving that is winning the division.” – White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
“I don’t really put too much weight into all that stuff, but it’s cool I’ve been around that long. Hopefully I can have a few 100 more.” – Lucas Giolito, who made his 100th career appearance and 98th career start in Wednesday’s victory.