VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been on the job for two weeks and has already made an impact on the team. Some of the players have referred to him as a father figure and a person who keeps the clubhouse loose.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo played for Baker for six years in Cincinnati, and he is not surprised to hear the high praise for the skipper. According to Arroyo, it helps that Baker has a combined 39 years of experience as a player and manager in the big leagues.
"He is older than the average manager," Arroyo said about the 66-year-old Baker. "He has a lot more experience. He almost had two different lives in a way. He's had such an amazing career. He brings so much experience. He is a guy that really likes to mix with people. He has friends all over this country. He has people everywhere he goes. When you do that, you share ideas."
Center fielder Ben Revere is a player who views Baker as a father figure. He was traded from the Blue Jays to the Nationals in January and feels like he has been with Washington for three years, thanks to Baker. Revere calls Baker a laid-back guy who doesn't make a player feel awkward.
"There are some coaches I played for that make you feel awkward," Revere said. "You don't know what you are going to do. It gets to the point where if you don't do well one time, you think it's over. You are like done. But if you bust your tail for Dusty, no matter what, he is going to have your back. You can struggle and he will have your back. He is going to be like a father figure. No matter what, he is going to have your back."
Baker lets everybody on the team know that he is not perfect. He jokingly called Bryce Harper, Royce, at a team meeting. Harper, in turn, called Baker, Rusty.
"He is just having fun with you," left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. "He is enjoying his time. He gets to manage again."
Harper said he loves the swagger and mentality that Baker brings to the team.
"Having a guy that has been around the game for a long time, Baker understands the mentality, he understands the grind of 162 games," Harper said. "I love the way he is with the players. He brings the aspects of family to this team. He wants what's best for us. You want a guy like that on your team any day of the week."
Ryan Zimmerman has played for six different managers, and he said Baker makes a player feel good about himself every day.
"Everyone gets this persona of him that he likes to have fun, but he is serious," Zimmerman said. "He wants you to come in and get your work done. As long as you are on time and do what you are supposed to do, everything is fine. Then you could joke around and have fun."
Baker has treated Zimmerman gently this spring. Zimmerman is still dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. There isn't any rush to get Zimmerman to full speed, however. Baker said he simply wants to make sure Zimmerman is ready by Opening Day.
"It's a cautious approach, knowing I don't need that many at-bats down here to get ready," Zimmerman said. "I would be more worried if I haven't been able to do everything else. I have participated in everything but the running, which I did for the first time [Tuesday], and I feel good today."