Hendry: Baker's job is safe

Cubs GM Hendry says Baker's job is safe

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, eager to end speculation that Dusty Baker's job is in jeopardy as losses mount, said he'll stick with his manager over the coming weeks as the team regains full strength.

"I'm hearing every time we lose a ballgame that Dusty is going to get fired," Hendry said Saturday. "People are reporting the other day that Dusty was going to get fired after we lost the last Marlins game [on Wednesday]. That's not going to happen."

There were rumors that Baker would be fired if the Cubs lost their Interleague series with the Chicago White Sox, and those rumors resurfaced when the Cubs were swept by the Florida Marlins this week.

"Dusty is going to get every opportunity to manage the club and get us out of this hole, and he'll get the opportunity to manage the club when we get healthy the next couple weeks," Hendry said. "I'd like to put that speculation that every time we lose a ballgame [Baker will be fired] and we stop putting that for public discussion every single day."

The Cubs lost to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, on Saturday to drop to 18-30, and they are 5-20 in the month of May. Baker was told of Hendry's vote of confidence after the game.

"My track record, they know what I can do, and I know what I can do," Baker said. "As a unit right now, we're just not getting it done. We're close."

The Cubs players reacted positively when told of Hendry's comments.

"I know it's a tough time right now for all of us, and I know it's been frustrating for the fans and they're looking for some answers," Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. "Frankly, to be quite honest, we don't have a lot of answers, other than we're not playing winning baseball. We're playing good enough to get beat right now."

Firing the manager isn't the answer, Cubs infielder Todd Walker said.

"Dusty's not out there throwing and catching and hitting," Walker said. "I'm always amazed when managers get all the credit in the world when they win a World Series and all the blame in the world when they're in a situation we're in.

"The reality is we're out there playing -- fire the nine guys out there stinking it up for three weeks. Fire me."

Hendry shouldered a lot of the responsibility, too.

"I feel responsible and I feel we're going to keep working as hard as we can to get it right," Hendry said of the Cubs' current state. "No fans in the world deserve to win more than we have. When it doesn't happen, I look at myself first."

Hendry said some of the Cubs' players are simply trying to do too much, and that began when they lost first baseman Derrek Lee to a fractured right wrist on April 19. The team also has been without pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

"You can't do more than you're capable of, and I think when people try to do too much, they don't play up to their own abilities," Hendry said. "I think you really see it in our game when you are up to bat and have to get that run in. We've done a poor job of knocking in clutch runs. It's a tough game, and when you put extra pressure on yourself to do that, you don't have the advantage over the pitcher. When you try to do what you usually do, that would be enough.

"We weren't expecting to play .700 baseball without Derrek, but I think collectively four or five guys who are normally pretty good Major League hitters and pretty proficient haven't done so," Hendry said. "It's not like they can't handle the pressure. It's so hard to hit anyhow, and when you put that extra pressure on yourself, you end up getting yourself out and making the pitcher look even better."

The Cubs ranked among the National League leaders in batting average and average with runners in scoring position in the first few weeks, but that's changed dramatically. The Cubs are now last in nearly every offensive category, including batting average, runs scored, RBIs and home runs.

"We felt good about our club. We felt good about it offensively," Hendry said. "Obviously, everybody had a terrible month, it seems, at the same time."

Hendry defended the deal he made in December for Juan Pierre. The center fielder was batting .230 with a .267 on-base percentage, not exactly what the Cubs hoped for.

"I don't think anyone would've said, 'Don't trade Ricky Nolasco for Juan Pierre' in December," Hendry said. "I still think Juan is going to come out of it and be a good player for us. He cares a lot and it's bothering him as much as anybody in the clubhouse the way we're going, and he feels responsible for the way we're going. He's probably as good an example as you'll find of a guy trying to do too much to pick the club up."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.