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NL wild-card notebook: Young Reds grew up with Baker

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Before manager Dusty Baker guided the Cincinnati Reds into the postseason three times in the past four seasons, the franchise last made the playoffs in 1995, a drought of 15 years.

After finishing under .500 in each of Baker's first two seasons in 2008 and 2009, the Reds won two NL Central titles before reaching the National League wild-card game this year.

"I'm proud to have been with these young players from the time a lot of them just got to the big leagues," Baker said Tuesday night before the Reds faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card game at PNC Park.

"I've been the only manager that some of them have had. We have trained these guys. We have tutored them. We're still teaching things from time to time."

All-Stars such as first baseman Joey Votto, second baseman Brandon Phillips, right fielder Jay Bruce and closer Aroldis Chapman all blossomed during Baker's tenure. At 64, Baker still has the ability to connect with players because of his easygoing personality and street sense.

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Setting their rosters for Tuesday's National League wild-card game, the Pirates and Reds loaded up on position players at the expense of starting pitchers.

Speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton was added to the Reds' bench. Hamilton, who was a September call-up, stole 13 bases in 14 attempts and scored nine runs. He was often used as a late-inning pinch runner.

The Pirates' roster included three catchers and eight infielders.

Cincinnati starting pitchers Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Greg Reynolds, as well as Pittsburgh starting pitchers A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, were all inactive Tuesday.

The winning team will be able to adjust its roster before playing Game 1 of the National League Division Series at St. Louis on Thursday.

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Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't have much time to get nervous about the wild-card showdown the night before the game.

Hurdle spent his Monday evening helping his daughter, Maddie, with her fifth-grade mathematics. His son, Christian, who joined the chess club at school two weeks ago, also challenged his father to a few games.

Hurdle was asked if he were smarter than a fifth-grader or the great chess master, Bobby Fischer.

"I give it my best," Hurdle replied. "Christian and I played to a draw a couple of times. I'm relearning the game of chess. Maddie's got me in math."

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Petrina McCutchen, mother of Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, gave a stirring rendition of the national anthem. Doug Drabek, who won the 1990 NL Cy Young Award while pitching for the Pirates, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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