Dusty Baker predicted that recently recalled outfielder Matt den Dekker would play an important role in the second game of two the Washington Nationals played with the Atlanta Braves earlier this week before den Dekker even arrived at the ballpark, telling reporters in Turner Field, including MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman, that den Dekker was en route from Syracuse as play began, and, "... might be here in the eighth or ninth to win it."
den Dekker, of course, doubled to drive in two runs and break up a 1-1 tie in a pinch hit appearance in the seventh, so Baker wasn't precisely prescient, but he was pretty darn close.
"He just got off the plane and came through for us," Baker said after the 3-1 win. "That was, man, that was something."
Before Thursday's home opener in Nationals Park, a reporter wondered in the 66-year-old skipper had any premonitions as to how things would end in the first game of three with Miami?
"I don't know man." Baker laughed. "It just comes to me. I don't think about it. It just comes to me and then I've learned at this stage of my life, I just say it and if it's wrong -- well, kind of like some of you guys. If I'm wrong, who remembers it?"
While Baker didn't offer any predictions, he did offer some honest opinions on a couple topics.
A reporter asked if he thought Danny Espinosa believing he hit better when he was at short, after he had played mostly second and a few other positions before this year, could in some way help in other aspects of Espinosa's game, like his success at the plate?
"I don't think that had much to do with his failures in the past, really," Baker said.
"I think he has a better outlook on things, that's what I think," he explained. "I wasn't here before, but all I know is that if it was that easy, I'd have everybody play where they want to play. But, I don't care what it takes and what his mind set is, as long as he's productive."
He also talked about Jayson Werth, who hasn't been productive in a small sample size early this season, going 0 for 11 with 3 Ks after he went 10 for 41 (.244/.279/.415) with a double, two homers, two walks and 14 Ks in 16 games in Grapefruit League action.
The veteran outfielder went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in the series opener with Miami. Baker acknowledged that Werth is not yet comfortable at the plate.
"When you're in-between, you're in kind of no-man's land, you're late on fastballs and you're early on breaking balls," he said.
"And right now his timing is off. He's frustrated. I can see it in his face, but we're all frustrated. But we've played three games.
"Three games, all you need is a couple good games and you're right back on top, especially early in the year like this. So, I was hoping that he had a big game tonight, so we're just going to put him back out there tomorrow."
He's been through it all before, seen it all before, and at his age, as Baker said, he's willing to just say it. Will his team appreciate the honest approach, coming from a player-turned-manager who has been where they've been?