Baker Promises New Approach with Media

For years, manager Dusty Baker has been known to speak his mind, even when it gets him in a little hot water. But this year, the Cubs skipper said he would back off a little bit.

In 2004, the national and Chicago media spotlights glared so brightly on the team, things that he said were magnified. From spring training, when he linked steroid whistleblowers with McCarthyism, throughout the season Baker's words were analyzed closely.

"I will alter my approach with you guys (the media) as far as being open and trying to be as honest as possible," Baker said. "Whenever I was like that, it seems like something was made out of it or it was turned into a joke or something. You live and you learn from it. I learned that maybe I shouldn't talk so much."

And when he met with Chicago and national reporters for his first news conference of training camp on Feb. 17, he talked at length but stayed away from controversy.

When it came to the subject of Jose Canseco's book about steroid users, Baker said: "Hey, man, I don't have an opinion on that. I don't know what motivates people. Guys do whatever they do."

On the major league steroid policy, he said: "I don't have an opinion on it. That's up to the commissioner's office and the players' association. They're going to do what's necessary and they're going to do what they have to do. You want my opinion, but no one asked me what to do prior to this. Why is my opinion important now?"

It will be interesting to see how long Baker bites his tongue on hot issues, but for now, he is focusing most of his comments on baseball.

NOTES, QUOTES

—RHP Kerry Wood is the longest-tenured member of the Cubs since they traded Sammy Sosa. He has been with the team since 1998 and likely will be the Opening Day starter, but doesn't view himself as being above anyone else on the team.

"There are other veterans on this team—guys who have been around a lot longer than I have, even if it was not with this organization," Wood said. "With the leader thing—it's 25 guys, not one. When somebody talks, we'll listen."

—CF Corey Patterson still does not have a definitive spot in the lineup. He was a top candidate for the leadoff spot, but then the Cubs picked up INF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr. in a trade. Hairston needs to prove himself to manager Dusty Baker before he gets the job. If Hairston wins the job, Patterson could bat second to get some extra speed in the top of the lineup. Patterson, who is also a power hitter, could also bat fifth, sixth or seventh as well.

—LHP Raul Valdez, a Cuban star who has not pitched professionally in the United States, suffered a left thumb injury before camp opened and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Valdez is a non-roster player who was hoping to impress officials and land a job in the bullpen.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 — Locker stalls Sammy Sosa used to have at Fitch Park in spring training. One is now being used by Jerry Hairston Jr., who came to the Cubs when the Orioles traded for Sosa, and the other is being occupied by non-roster infielder Cody Ransom.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have an alibi—I had a 6 p.m. dinner reservation. I didn't mastermind it and I don't know who did it. I wouldn't tell you if I did, but I don't know." —Cubs pitcher Mark Prior on the still unsolved mystery of who smashed Sammy Sosa's boom box with a bat after the final game of the season in 2004.

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