Dusty Baker back from mini-stroke

ST. LOUIS -- Dusty Baker missed the Cincinnati Reds' division-clinching win. He watched Homer Bailey's no-hitter on TV.

Back for his first full day on the job Monday after recovering from a mini-stroke in Chicago, the veteran manager takes it as a sign there'll be more good news ahead.

"The way I look at it, the big one's to come," Baker said "I'm fine now. I'm not 100 percent, but I'm pretty close."

Good enough to visit some old haunts, too. Baker's 33-year-old daughter, Natosha, is with him in St. Louis and has been preparing healthy food for her father.

"She's got turkey burgers, couscous, all that kind of stuff," Baker said. "She'll be proud of me to tell you guys I'm eating this.

"I'm going to sneak down to my local watering spots and get some soul food here," Baker added with a smile.

The best sign to Baker is he suffered the mini-stroke in a hospital, noting he could have been driving on a highway or on an airplane if it had happened a few minutes later. Baker was readmitted when he couldn't say his name.

"It wasn't scary, because I didn't feel like it was my time to go," Baker said. "I mean, I didn't like the fact I was having a stroke but at the same time, how many people have been in the hospital and had a stroke?

"It wasn't my time to go."

The Reds were 7-4 under bench coach Chris Speier and were tied with the Washington Nationals for the NL's best record at 96-63. They'd have to finish a game ahead of Washington to get home-field advantage because the Nationals won the season series 5-2.

Also motivational could be the chance to deny the St. Louis Cardinals the second NL wild card with a strong showing in the final series of the regular season. The 63-year-old Baker, who often jousted with Tony La Russa over the years, had a big grin on his face at that prospect, but nothing else to say.

Baker returned to work on a limited basis a week ago, making out the lineup cards but leaving before game-time. He's still on some medication but was feeling a lot better and had lost 22 pounds.

Players were happy to have Baker back in the saddle for the final series of the regular season. Baker has led Cincinnati to the postseason two of the last three years and was 1,580-1,430, 19th on the all-time managing win list.

"He's the only manager I've ever had in the majors, so it's all that I know," outfielder Jay Bruce said. "He's kind of the heartbeat of our team.

"He lives and dies on each pitch and each game, just like we do."

Third baseman Scott Rolen is happy yet wary.

"I'm the guy that's worried about his health," Rolen said. "It's great to have him back but the one thing I told him is `I'll be keeping an eye on you.'

"And he said, 'I'll be keeping an eye on you, too."