With the way the Cubs have played in the first half, expect changes but probably not massive ones.
"We haven't had them here long enough to know what to overhaul," Baker said of the players. "In two years here, we haven't had the team we wanted I bet not even a third of the time or a quarter of the time. Look back to last year with Nomar [Garciaparra] and [Todd Walker] and all the guys who were out [with injuries]. We haven't really had our team -- [Kerry Wood], [Mark] Prior, the list goes on. We haven't had the pleasure of having the team we put together."
The most losses the Cubs have had at the All-Star break was 57 on July 12, 1966. That year was the last time the team finished with 100 losses. The Cubs entered Thursday's game with 53 losses. Baker knows what will turn things around in the second half.
"Prior," Baker said. "[Derrek Lee] getting better. [Angel] Pagan here. Juan Pierre is going to be better -- he's already better. You got four, five guys better, that makes a big difference. You get Prior going extended innings, he's going to be stronger than the guys who were here the whole time. He should be one of the strongest guys in the league in the second half."
Maybe the message to Cubs fans should be to hang in there.
"They've been hearing that too long in Chicago," Baker said. "They've been hearing, 'Hang in,' for 100 years now. You'd like to say it. But nobody wants to hear it."
Old school: Speaking of mentors, Baker credits Tom Lasorda for influencing him the most in terms of his managing style.
"He had a great sense and a lot of faith and belief," Baker said of his former Dodgers skipper. "He wouldn't let you get down on things. He would always tell you, you've got to believe. I say that now because I believe it and I've seen it. I've lived it. He would try to put guys in position that you were likely to succeed. He knew he was the manager but still one of us."
That sounds like Baker's approach.
"I've learned some from every manager I've had," he said. "I've also learned how not to do some things. You don't really emulate anybody, but you take something from everybody."
Baker wouldn't name names as to who he felt did things the wrong way, but what did he learn not to do?
"Not to embarrass players in front of other players or employees in front of other employees," he said. "Nobody likes to be called out, nobody likes to be embarrassed, especially in front of their own peers. I had a manager or two who used to do that quite often."
Ironman: Last season, Bob Howry appeared in 79 games, a career high. He's already been in 44 games this season with another half to go.
"We've got four days off coming up," Howry said, laughing.
The right-hander doesn't feel as if he's overworked.
"It's nice to be out there a lot," he said. "You get bored when you sit in the 'pen. It's not like I'm going out there and pitching sore or dragging."
Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Baker have been diligent about giving Howry days off when needed. He should easily reach 79 games again at the rate he's going.
"I've got a chance to get there again this year," he said.
Shifty ways: The Brewers are one of the few teams to use a defensive shift when outfielder Jacque Jones hits.
"When they pull a shift on you, most of the times they pitch to the shift," Baker said. "I'm urging the hitters to look around before they get in the box so they get an idea as to the scouting report."
If a team employs a shift, the pitcher will tend to throw more inside fastballs and slow breaking balls.
"In a way, [when they use a shift] it makes it easier to know what they're going to try to do to him," Baker said.
Extra bases: The Cubs have yet to set their rotation for after the All-Star break. One factor to consider is how much Carlos Zambrano pitches in the game, to be played Tuesday in Pittsburgh. ... The one player who should benefit from the break is Marshall, who has totaled 93 2/3 innings so far. He totaled 94 innings last season at Class A Daytona and Double-A West Tenn. ... The Cubs' 1-0 win Wednesday over Houston was the first 1-0 victory since Sept. 22, 2004, when they beat the Pirates by that score.
Welcome aboard: The Cubs agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Chris Huseby, the 11th-round pick in the June First-Year Player Draft, and outfielder Andrew Rundle, the 14th-round pick.
Huseby, who recently graduated from Martin County High School in Stuart, Fla., was the team's co-MVP and best pitcher in 2004. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2005. This season, he helped the school reach the Class 5A Region 4 finals and was named Comeback Player of the Year.
Rundle batted .438 with 24 RBIs for Bend (Ore.) Senior High School. He was recently named the 2005-06 Gatorade Oregon High School Player of the Year. Overall, the Cubs have agreed to terms with their first 13 selections, and 17 of the 21 picks.
The Cubs also announced they have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan pitcher Larry Suarez.
"We feel like we signed the top pitcher out of Latin America," said Oneri Fleita, Cubs player development director.
Minor matters: Jae Kuk Ryu sprained his right ankle covering first base on a ground ball in Iowa's 6-4 loss to New Orleans. Ryu had to leave the game after one-third of an inning. Felix Pie had two hits and scored a run, and Michael Restovich hit a two-run homer. ... Brandon Sing hit a grand slam in the third inning in West Tenn's 8-6, 14-inning loss to Chattanooga. Eric Patterson had three hits. ... Carlos Perez gave up seven runs on nine hits over five innings in Daytona's 8-4 loss to St. Lucie. Jemel Spearman and Jonathan Mota each had three hits. ... Scott Taylor gave up one run on six hits over six innings in Peoria's 3-1 win over Clinton. Ryan Norwood and Jesus Valdez each had two hits. For Norwood, it was his 32nd multi-hit game. ... Mike Billek gave up three runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings in Boise's 6-3 win over Tri-City.
On deck: Carlos Zambrano (7-3, 3.33 ERA) will tune up for the All-Star Game on Friday, facing the Brewers for the third time this season. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and Comcast Sports Net.