07/12/2003 3:06 PM ET
Notes: Extra 'good' work for Dusty
CHICAGO -- The All-Star Game has meant extra work for Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who has had to deal with two teams at the same time. But it could be just what he needs.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"It'd be a lot easier if we were winning 10 in a row," said Baker, who will manage the National League team at Tuesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field. "But it'll be a lot more pleasant now because I'll be around such great players. You get a relief. I could use the time to go fishing big time -- but I can't say that.
"But at the same time, I need to be around those guys to recharge me for the second half too," he said Saturday. "As much as I need the psychological rest, I also need the psychological boost to be around such great players. Then I can come back with more energy than when I left."
The Cubs started play Saturday at .500 for the first time since April 11 when they were 5-5.
"You can't figure 'Here we go again,' or feel sorry for yourself or say, 'Hey, man, this is as high as it's going to be.'" Baker said. "It's hard for me to accept. I have many sleepless nights and nights when that dinner doesn't taste too good.
"One thing I learned in the military is do not panic," he said. "No matter what, there's a way out of every situation."
If the Cubs are going to stumble, now is the time.
"You're going to go through it," Baker said. "In my mind I'd rather have it happen now than down the stretch in September. Oh, yeah, it's going to happen. You don't have to be a genius to know it's going to happen. It's going to happen sooner or later."
Baker, most of his coaching staff, and Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior will take part in the All-Star festivities. As for the rest of the team, this could be a good time for a break.
"We're like soldiers trying to get back home to regroup," he said.
Baker does get Wednesday off and would like to go fishing if he can convince his wife, Melissa. He remembers one year when he took her to Napa Valley for a mini-vacation and hid his fishing tackle box in the car. He told Melissa he had to go for a drive to clear his head. Melissa called him on his cell phone while he was on his way to the fishing spot and asked if he was missing anything.
"She said, 'I found your little fishing rod,'" Baker said, laughing. "So I came right back."
Report card: Prior will end the first half with a 8-5 record, 3.01 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings in his 19 first-half starts. He is winless in his last five starts.
"I thought I pitched well at the beginning and I haven't pitched as well as I'd like to of late," Prior said. "I've had games like yesterday and against the Phillies, when I should've put a stop to their offense. As it is, I'm not going to rate myself too high."
And the Cubs?
"We haven't been playing well and that's the bottom line," Prior said. "There's no excuses. We haven't flat-out played good baseball. We haven't pitched all that well, we haven't hit all that well and defensively we've been up and down. We need to play hard these next two games. We've got to play better baseball. It seems like we haven't got any breaks, we can't find the holes. It seems like every time they hit a ball hard, it finds a hole.
"We haven't had a lot of things go our way," Prior said. "We've got to start making the breaks and we've got to start making things happen."
Center of attention: Jose Hernandez started in center field Saturday, his first outfield starting assignment since July 7, 2001, when he played for Milwaukee.
"Jose has played center in the past," Baker said. "I gave him a couple days to work out there. We need his bat, we need his offense especially against the Braves."
Hernandez has been working in the outfield during batting practice the past few days.
All-Star arms: Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who is on the National League coaching staff for Tuesday's game, will meet with Baker to go over the order of the pitchers in the All-Star Game.
"I don't think you go over a lot of scouting reports or anything like that," Rothschild said. "One, they want to enjoy it and two, they pretty much know what they're doing."
Most of the starters are not used to being in the pen so Rothschild's biggest job may be getting everyone warmed up in time.
"You don't want to get them hurt and have them hurry," he said. "I know there's more pressure this year to win. We just want to make sure if it's extra innings that you have enough."
Extra bases: Will Clark, in town for the All-Star festivities, was in uniform and talking to the Cubs players. He spent some time with the team in Spring Training. ... Everyone thinks they know baseball. Cubs hitting coach Gary Matthews received a video, "How to Develop a .400 Team Batting Average."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.