Baker on Bonds' 700th; hurricane may miss Cubs-Fish
By Jeff Wallner / Special to MLB.com
Nomar Garciaparra said the next step in his recovery is to be able to run hard. (Brian Kersey/AP)
CINCINNATI -- Nomar Garciaparra is enjoying his role as a spectator. With the Cubs riding a five-game winning streak, there is no reason for him to rush his recovery from a strained right groin.
"I don't want any steps backward," he said. "I can't wait to get back. I'm enjoying watching my teammates. They're playing great. I want to be a part of this as well."
Garciaparra made his last start on Sept. 11. He took batting practice on Friday and felt fine, but some physical challenges remain.
"Running and fielding is the toughest part right now," said manager Dusty Baker. "He took some ground balls (Friday) and he's been running on the treadmill a little bit."
Garciaparra has yet to really push his legs.
"The big thing will be getting over the hurdle of being able to run hard," he said. "That's the next step."
Garciaparra's presence in the lineup and in the field will be invaluable for the Cubs down the stretch. Still, Baker said the worst thing the club could do is rush Garciaparra's progress and risk further injury to the groin.
"We just have to do it the right way with him," Baker said. "And, do it at the right pace."
Baker on Bonds: The Cubs manager had not yet seen a replay Saturday of Barry Bonds' 700th career home run, which came on Friday night against San Diego's Jake Peavy at SBC Park. Baker's family, however, was a firsthand witness to the historic event.
"My wife and son went to the game in San Francisco," he said. "They saw it. I'm glad for (Bonds)."
Baker managed Bonds for seven seasons in San Francisco.
"That's a lot of home runs for a lot of years," Baker said. "That's pretty awesome."
Hurricane concerns: The latest weather reports are predicting tropical storm Jeanne to be at hurricane strength in a couple of days. However, the storm is not expected to impact South Florida until later in the week. This came as welcome news for Baker and the Cubs, who are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Monday against the Marlins in Miami.
"I talked to a couple guys down there and they said it's going to the east and north of Miami," Baker said. "Everybody might catch a break."
Baker said he plans to send pitchers not being used in the twinbill on Monday, including Kerry Wood, on to Pittsburgh where the Cubs begin a three-game series with the Pirates on Tuesday.
"That's the plan," he said. "Woody will go on to Pittsburgh."
The remnants of Hurricane Ivan affected the Cincinnati area with heavy rain overnight on Wednesday, but the stormy weather passed quickly leaving behind sunny and cool conditions for the Cubs' four-game series with the Reds.
"We caught a break with this weather," Baker said. "They were predicting rain all four days here. It just goes to show, you don't know."
Derrek Lee / 1B
Weight: 245 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Lee learning: Derrek Lee has historically been a better hitter in the second half of the season. Baker sees no reason why his first baseman couldn't put up these kinds of numbers for a full season.
"This is the type of year he could have every year," Baker said. "Everybody knows he's a great second-half player."
Lee has a current seven-game hitting streak during which he is batting .385. With his next home run, Lee will establish a career high for homers. He has already compiled a career-high 96 RBIs.
For all of his raw talent, Baker feels Lee's intelligence and willingness to learn is what sets him apart from most players.
"He's a good student," Baker said. "You have to give him a lot of credit. He's a smart young man and you don't have to tell him the same thing over and over. He listens. You don't have to worry about him."
Lee's propensity to pound the baseball after the All-Star break reminds Baker of another Cubs great.
"You guys had a guy here who was a great second-half player in Ryne Sandberg," he said.
Joe Nuxhall tribute: The Reds honored broadcasting legend Joe Nuxhall on Saturday in a pregame ceremony.
Nuxhall and Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman are celebrating their 31st season together broadcasting Reds baseball, making them the longest-running duo in baseball history.
Nuxhall, a left-handed pitcher, made his big league debut on June 10, 1944 at the age of 15 becoming the youngest player in the modern era to debut in the Major Leagues.
"He's one of the nicer guys you'll want to meet in the game," said Baker of Nuxhall. "He has one of the most consistent personalities in the game. He appreciates life and he appreciates what he's doing for a living. That's a long time to be in this game."
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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