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Cubs GM Hendry says Baker's job not in danger

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Saturday manager Dusty Baker's job was safe in the wake of the team's jaw-dropping slump.

The Cubs had lost 19 of their last 23 games before facing
Atlanta on Saturday.

After losing three straight to the last-place Marlins,
the Cubs suffered perhaps their worst loss of the season Friday
when closer Ryan Dempster gave up three ninth-inning runs as second baseman Neifi Perez made two errors on the same play in a
gut-wrenching 6-5 loss.

But Hendry said Baker, who is in the final year of a four-year
contract, will get a chance to haul the team out of its slump and
then manage it once injured players Mark Prior, Derrek Lee and Wade Miller are back on the roster.

"I'm hearing a lot every day, every time we lose a ballgame
Dusty is going to get fired," Hendry said. "If we lose three to
the White Sox ... and people are reporting the other day that
Dusty was going to get fired after the last Marlins game. That's
not going to happen, OK?

"Dusty is going to get every opportunity to manage the club and
get us out of this hole, and he's going to get an opportunity to
manage this club when we get healthy the next couple of weeks
also," he said.

Hendry, who got a two-year contract extension in early April,
will be the one who decides if and when Baker gets one.

"I'm the one in charge of that situation. Dusty knows the
process I'm going to take, it will be obviously a continual
process, but I'll do it at the pace I choose," Hendry said.

"But speculation that he would go because we lost three games
in Florida or if we lost last Sunday to the White Sox is certainly
not true and was never given any thought," Hendry added.

In his first season in Chicago, Baker led the Cubs within five
outs of their first World Series appearance since 1945 before an
eighth-inning collapse in Game 6 of the NLCS undid them. And they
led the NL wild card in 2004 until another collapse, this one
during the final homestand of the season.

But last season, again battling key injuries and some poor
fundamentals, they slumped to 79-83. And after starting 13-8 with
Prior and Kerry Wood on the disabled list to start the season, they
have gone into a mammoth slump without Lee, who broke his wrist
April 19.

Despite the struggles, Hendry said he and Baker have a good
relationship.

"Speculation in the past that Dusty wanted out last year and
was going to the Dodgers and was going to the Nationals, that was
all totally untrue," Hendry said. "His and my relationship has
been very solid from the time he got here."

One of Hendry's major offseason moves, the acquisition of
leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, hasn't worked out so far. Pierre was
struggling with a .230 average before Saturday.

And the fans are growing restless. Another offseason
acquisition, Jacque Jones, has been booed often and was nearly hit
with a baseball thrown by a fan from the stands earlier this month.

"I feel certainly responsible and I feel we are going to keep
working as hard as we can until we get it right," Hendry said.
"No fans in the world deserve to win more than we have. And when
it doesn't happen, I look at myself first."

But many of the fans are looking at Baker, a three-time manager
of the year while with the Giants, who took San Francisco to the
World Series in 2002 and then nearly got the Cubs there the next
season.

No one is taking the Cubs' troubled times harder than Baker.

"This is not a man who sits on his laurels. He was a heck of a
player and has been a heck of a manager for a long time," Hendry
said.

"I think people need to understand it's bothering him just as much as anybody who works here. ... It's a very tough time. He's
got it in him to help pull us out."