Hendry standing firm on Baker

Hendry standing firm on Baker

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Tuesday he hasn't changed his stance regarding Dusty Baker, and repeated that Baker will get every opportunity to try to turn things around this season.

The Cubs entered Tuesday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at 28-47 and 14 games out of first place in the National League Central. They have played the last two months without Derrek Lee, last year's NL batting champ, and have gotten limited innings from pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

In late May, Hendry tried to dispel rumors that Baker would be fired. The rumors have resurfaced because of the team's poor play.

"I felt what I said a month ago was accurate," Hendry said. "I want to give Dusty every opportunity to manage the club and help get us out of this hole when we get healthier. With D-Lee back and Prior pitching well -- unfortunately Woody has had a big setback -- but I still feel that, [with] what [Baker] has done over the extent of his career, he [deserves to] get every opportunity to manage now that we're getting healthier and hopefully a better club out there for him."

Wood began the year on the disabled list and made four starts before being placed back on the DL because of stiffness in his right shoulder.

"I hope so," Hendry said when asked if the right-hander would pitch again this season. "He's going to be out a while, and obviously we never anticipated that.

"We need some of the other guys to pitch better," Hendry said. "I don't want to fall into the pattern of making any excuses. We've got young pitchers who can pitch. Some of them have done well, some of them haven't. We're not the only club throwing rookies out there pitching in the rotation and late in the ballgame. To me, those aren't excuses. You've still got to pitch well. You've been a good prospect, you've earned your chance up here.

"A lot of people in the industry have always had a lot of interest in our pitching, and our guys have got to do a good job," he said. "[Sean] Marshall has in spurts, [Carlos] Marmol has for the most part. They need to continue to get better and better. We've got to win without the guys who you always think were going to be on the mound."

Baker asked the media on Monday to stop asking about his job status. Hendry said he doesn't feel all the talk is a distraction to the players.

"I think our players need to focus on playing good baseball, playing hard every day, playing better fundamentally and a lot of that's on them, too," Hendry said. "They've got a responsibility to play the game the right way every day and play as hard as they can every day. There's no excuse to be this far under .500 no matter who we have out there."

Getting Lee back should provide a huge lift. But what else can Baker and his staff do to turn things around?

"I think they have to find a way to get everybody consistently playing at the top level," Hendry said. "We played awfully well in Cincinnati [on June 8-11] ... and then we came home and lost six ballgames in a row. I feel awful for how poorly we played at home. We've got the best fans in the world. They're still coming out and packing the place and they deserve better baseball than we're giving them."

The rumors won't stop.

"That's part of it," Hendry said. "That's professional baseball, we live in a big city, it's a big market and a lot of people care about the Chicago Cubs and it comes with the territory. You don't play good baseball, you're this far under .500, you have to expect the criticism, you have to learn to deal with it and you have to learn to get out of it.

"I certainly expect their full attention, their full effort, full throttle every day. And anything short of that is not acceptable."

Hendry would not set a time frame as to when he'll make a decision on Baker, whose contract ends after this season.

"You never put a time frame on things," he said. "My intention has been proven all along which is to give him the respect he deserves after a lot of years of quality work, and I'm hopeful that we're going to get better and it's not an issue in the second half."

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