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Notes: Baker looks toward second half

Notes: Baker looks toward second half

MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs' goal for the second half? Be respectable. And win.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who will spend the All-Star break at home in California, doesn't plan on worrying about his job status next week.

"I'll try not to," he said Saturday. "I'll try not to answer the phone. That's why the break is there. I'll watch the All-Star Game, like I always do. You're going to have your moments when you think about things -- things to do, things to change. You recharge for the second half. That's what vacation is."

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The Cubs entered Saturday's game at 32-54 with plenty of room for improvement in the second half.

"I hope we can go deeper in games with our starters, cut down on walks, cut down on home runs, increase our on-base percentage, hit better with runners in scoring position and play smarter on the bases -- be more aggressive and smarter," he said.

"[We want to] be respectable, and to win," Baker said. "There's a lot of games left. We haven't had a real good streak in a couple years. We're due for a real good streak. We have to get some breaks and capitalize on them."

The Cubs' longest winning streak of the season has been three games, done three times. They'll open the second half with a three-game series against the National League East leaders, the New York Mets, and will start Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior.

With an off-day July 17, the Cubs will skip rookie Carlos Marmol and go with rookie Sean Marshall on July 18 against Houston. Marmol will be in the bullpen if needed during the Mets series.

Top of the order: Juan Pierre entered Saturday's game with 18 hits over his last eight games and was batting .514 (18-for-35) in that stretch. That's a big turnaround from the start of the season, when the Cubs center fielder hit .240 in the first two months.

"We had discussions about attacking the ball, being aggressive," Baker said. "Plus, I think his bat speed has come around."

Pierre also seemed to be putting a little pressure on himself early.

"Hits relax you," Baker said.

Speaking of Pierre, ever wonder why he carries gloves in his hands when he gets on base? He broke his hand sliding while playing summer ball for the Manitowoc (Wis.) Skunks as a collegian. Holding the gloves helps him keep his hands closed, so he doesn't risk dislocating a finger or injuring his hand. Why not slide feet-first?

"You get there quicker, but it's more dangerous [to slide head-first]," Pierre said. "I wouldn't want any kids doing that. It does look cool to slide head-first."

Why did he do it?

"Everybody wanted to slide like Pete Rose," Pierre said.

He still keeps in touch with his host family from his days in Manitowoc.

"They're Brewers fans," he said, "but they root for me."

All-Stars: Cubs second baseman Eric Patterson was named to the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game roster. The game will be played Sunday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu also was named, but he will miss the game after spraining his right ankle. Former Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins will lead the World Team.

Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is one of 20 Major League players to have competed in the Futures Game and the All-Star Game. Ramirez played in the 1999 Futures Game and the 2005 All-Star Game.

Speaking of All-Stars, Iowa Cubs left-hander Rich Hill will be the Pacific Coast League starter in the Triple-A All-Star Game to be played Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio. Hill is 5-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 12 starts, and has 101 strikeouts.

Congratulations: Cubs second baseman Todd Walker will be inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame on Monday. Walker will be the second baseball player in school history to be inducted. A first-team All-American two years in a row, he led LSU to a national championship in 1993 and earned the College World Series MVP Award.

Quote of the day: "I don't want to get out of baseball mode." -- Pierre, explaining why he was staying in Chicago for the All-Star break rather than going home

Minor matters: Ryan O'Malley threw eight shutout innings and Ryan Theriot had two hits, reached base four times and scored three runs in Triple-A Iowa's 8-0 win over Omaha on Friday. Felix Pie also had two hits and one RBI and Michael Restovich had two hits and two RBIs. ... Juan Mateo gave up one run on six hits over seven innings in Double-A West Tenn's 3-1 win over Chattanooga. Nic Jackson had two hits. ... Class A Daytona's game against St. Lucie was rained out. ... Ryan Norwood had two hits, including his team-high 10th home run, in Class A Peoria's 8-3 loss to Beloit. Norwood is the 56th player in Chiefs history to hit at least 10 home runs in a single season. ... No. 1 draft pick Tyler Colvin hit his first professional home run as Class A Boise beat Tri City, 7-1. Billy Petrick gave up one run on five hits over six innings for the win.

On deck: Prior (0-4, 7.71 ERA) will close the first half in the series finale against the Brewers on Sunday, making his fifth start of the season. Game time is 1:05 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on WGN Radio and WGN TV.

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

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