One day following the announcement that closer Jonathan Papelbon was headed to the disabled list for the first time in his career, there wasn't a whole lot to ask manager Dusty Baker on Wednesday before the Nationals' series finale against the Cubs. No injury news, no roster changes, nothing newsworthy, at least nothing that was pressing.
That allowed the Nats skipper - who was speaking on his 67th birthday - to kick back and talk about a variety of random subjects, some relating to his team on the field and some relating to what is awaiting them off of it.
First, Baker was asked who has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season on the Nationals. There are a lot of players he could have chosen, Daniel Murphy, Wilson Ramos and Tanner Roark included. But Baker had another guy in mind.
"Probably the rise of Joe Ross. He was a guy that when I first got here, we were trying to trade for or sign some other guys. He was going to go back to the minors if there wasn't room. Probably Joe Ross," Baker said.
Ross has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season with a 3.01 ERA through 12 starts. His ERA is currently second-best on the Nats behind only Roark, who has a 2.93 mark.
After Wednesday's game against the Cubs, the Nats begin a 10-game road trip at the San Diego Padres on Thursday night. They play four games there before moving on to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.
Baker is from California and always loves going back. But he says the cities there can present concerns for a manager.
"The west coast has always been tough on teams," Baker explained. "There's a lot of distractions out there. I talked to the guys today because I've seen the west coast destroy teams. This is a perfectly resilient team. You go to the coast, man, everybody has friends, relatives, a couple of fleas and some parasites on the west coast. It's true. Everybody and their families like to go to the west coast. They want to go to Disney Land, they want to go to Sea World. Some guys go to Tijuana, [Mexico]. I've seen guys rent boats and show up sunburned. I've seen guys go to Universal Studios and they can't get a ride back or they can't play because they have blisters on their feet. Some of these guys need a warning before they go to the coast. It's true. It's no joke, going to the coast."
Hmm, we'll see if the Nationals fall victim to any of those apparent hazards.