12/03/12 8:23 PM ET
'Doing great,' Baker eagerly looking ahead to '13
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Baker certainly did not have the look of the same man who suffered a minor stroke in September while he was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. He feels 100 percent once again and has kept off the 20 pounds he had lost after his release from a Chicago hospital near the end of last season.
"Oh, yeah. I'm doing great," Baker said on Monday while meeting with reporters. "You know, the rest does wonders being at home, being with your family, all these things. Plus I've been poked and prodded [by] doctors from all over to determine what was wrong and to make sure it doesn't come back. I think I'll be fine."
Baker, 63, also wanted to put the Reds' devastating exit from the National League Division Series vs. the Giants behind him. That wasn't so easy, however.
"I was constantly reminded, living in the Bay Area," Baker said. "That was the toughest part of the winter. The toughest part has been to see the amount of hats, different color hats, Giant hats, flags waving from cars, license plates. People ask me, 'Did I go to Game 3 or 4? Did I go to the parade?' I'm just glad the 49ers are doing good, because they're paying more attention now to the 49ers than they are the Giants."
Baker is more interested in looking forward and has a lot to like about the Reds' defense of their NL Central crown. Cincinnati will return with its core intact and several young players ready to continue its growth -- Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, Homer Bailey and others.
"When you see [a guy] like Frazier, you're curious about how he's going to make the adjustment to next year, but you really see the growth of [Johnny] Cueto and the growth of Homer Bailey," Baker said. "He's probably grown as much as anybody we have on our team, I mean, as a young man and as a ballplayer and as a pitcher."
Bailey won 13 games in 2012 and threw a no-hitter vs. the Pirates on Sept. 28.
"You want to see some more growth in some of the other guys, and you want some of the other guys to do what they've been doing -- the Joey Vottos and Brandon Phillips," Baker said. "You'd like to see Cozart get better. The big guy in the equation that we'd like to see everything come together and that light turn on is [Drew] Stubbs. People wonder why he keeps playing. This guy is a talent that very few people are blessed with."
And the young player everyone still talks about is Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who is expected to move to the rotation after serving as the Reds' closer in 2012.
"He could very well be my best starter and my best reliever," Baker said. "So I'm sure that he'll do whatever you ask him to do. He would probably prefer to start, but last year we were preparing him as a starter and there was much debate about whether to send him to the Minor Leagues to start or not. Emphatically, some of us wanted him in the big leagues, and he ended up being the setup man and ended up being a closer. So we'll have to see. Right now, we have six starters and Chapman could possibly be one of them, or he could be our best closer. It's a pretty good problem to have."
The Reds will have to find out this spring if Chapman can develop his secondary pitches so he doesn't rely on his triple-digit velocity too much. They will also have to watch his workload throughout the year. When asked, Baker indicated that he and pitching coach Bryan Price might need to get creative in how to handle Chapman next season.
"Do you monitor his pitch count? We don't know what his maximum is yet," Baker said. "Do you monitor his innings? Do you do a [Stephen] Strasburg situation where you sit him down the last month of the season? ... Or he could maybe relieve early or something and stretch him out."