Dusty Baker will be back at Pacific Bell Park, though in a different dugout than he was used to.
The three-time NL manager of the year expects to feel mixed emotions in his first appearance against his former team as his visiting Chicago Cubs open a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants.
“I don’t know how I’ll be received,” said Baker, who managed the Giants for 10 seasons and guided them to the World Series last fall. “All I know is I gave it all I had when I was there. Every job I get, I give it all I got.”
Baker’s family will be in the stands for his homecoming, comforting the new Cubs’ skipper who has been thinking about this series since the beginning of the season.
“It woke me up one night,” Baker said, “and I was upset with myself for letting it wake me up, because we have work to do.”
Baker and the Giants endured a well-documented split during the offseason, a divorce that had been cumulating during the latter part of Baker’s tenure.
The disagreement centered around Baker’s tenuous relationship with owner Peter Magowan, and reports that Magowan grew irritated with the amount of credit Baker annually received for the Giants success.
Baker became the first manager in nearly three decades to leave a team after reaching the World Series. Dick Williams retired after leading Oakland to a title in 1973, and was hired by the California Angels during the 1974 season.
The Giants finished first or second in eight of Baker’s 10 seasons at the helm, and the Cubs are continuing that trend.
Though Sunday’s 6-3 loss at Colorado was Chicago’s fourth in five games, the Cubs sit atop the NL Central with a two-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.
But the Giants don’t seem to be missing Baker.
Under new manager Felipe Alou, they are off to the best start in franchise history.
San Francisco, however, has lost two straight, capped by Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Philadelphia in which the Giants were no-hit by Phillies ace Kevin Millwood.
But as the Giants return from a nine-game road trip, few wanted to discuss Baker’s return.
“That was last year,” shortstop Rich Aurilia said. “This is 2003.”
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place, NL Central. Giants - 1st place, NL West.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Kerry Wood (3-1, 3.00 ERA). Wood had won three straight decisions to start the season but is coming off his first setback of the campaign. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings of Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to San Diego, but struck out 11 and walked just three. Wood is 3-1 with a 5.17 ERA in seven career starts against the Giants.
GIANTS PROBABLE STARTER: Kirk Rueter (3-0, 3.10 ERA). After allowing just one unearned run over 13 2-3 innings of consecutive wins at the beginning of April, Rueter has surrendered eight runs and 17 hits over 10 1-3 innings of his last two starts. The left-hander gave up three runs and nine hits over six innings Wednesday but didn’t figure in the decision of San Francisco’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. In 12 career starts against the Cubs, Rueter is 6-5 with a 2.92 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Sammy Sosa, .321 avg.; Sosa, Corey Patterson and Hee Seop Choi, 5 HRs; Patterson, 22 RBIs and 21 runs; Patterson, Moises Alou, Tom Goodwin and Mark Bellhorn, 2 SBs. Giants - J.T. Snow, .348 avg. and 21 RBIs; Jose Cruz, 7 HRs and 22 runs; Ray Durham, 4 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 3-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Sosa is hitting .250 with a double, two homers and four RBIs in 12 career at-bats against LHP Rueter. … The Cubs need two wins to tie their team record for victories in April. Chicago won 16 games in April 1969. … LHP Shawn Estes will be examined by an orthopedic specialist and a massage therapist Tuesday to determine the seriousness of a lower back strain that may force him to miss a start. Giants - OF Barry Bonds is batting just .235 against RHP Wood, but has a double, a triple and three RBIs in 17 career at-bats against him. … LHP Kirk Rueter is 128-76 in his 204 starts with the Giants since 1996 and 29-9 in his last 38 outings. … By losing two of three to the Phillies, the Giants suffered their first series loss since falling to Montreal last August.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 6-6 on the road; Giants - 7-2 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - RHP Antonio Alfonseca (hamstring), 15-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL. Giants - LHP Jason Christiansen (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Jensen (back), 15-day DL; RHP Robb Nen (shoulder), 15-day DL.