Dusty Baker is at it once again. The former Cubs manager is not sending Mark Prior out to the mound for yet another inning, late in the game with his team up 10, and he’s not scolding the fans for their incessant booing of LaTroy Hawkins. He is, however, signing some of his favorite 30-somethings to contracts — like former Cubs Daryle Ward and Jacque Jones — who inked minor league deals with Baker’s Reds Thursday to serve as Baker’s ’09 versions of Lenny Harris and Freddie Bynum.

“Dude, every solid team needs a significant veteran presence, like a Neifi or a Macias,” said Baker. “You can use them as a late-inning defensive replacement or maybe even to start 30 or 40 games in a row despite a .132 batting average. Either way, those are my guys.”

While Ward has played sparingly in the field most of his career, serving mainly as a pinch hitter, Baker expects to use the rotund lefty all over the diamond.

“Oh yeah, you’re going to see a lot of Daryle at third base, shortstop and maybe a little catcher,” added Baker. “His defense is highly underrated.”

As for Jones, who batted a feeble .147 in 42 games with Detroit and Florida last season, Baker has some special plans.

“Jacque has got a lot of game left in him. I’m thinking 10 or 12 more years at the big league level,” Baker said. “I’ve already got him penciled in this season for 100 games in center, 40 in right, and another 22 in left. And if we make the World Series, I’m gonna find a way to start him in center fielder and DH at the same time, you can bet on that.”


heckler editorial staff