PITTSBURGH -- No one was more pleased that Sunday marked bench coach Chris Speier's final day as acting manager than Speier himself. That's because it only meant one thing: that regular manager Dusty Baker was healthy enough to return.
Baker, who missed his 11th game on Sunday while recovering from a minor stroke and an irregular heartbeat, is set to return to the bench on Monday, when the Reds open their final three-game regular-season series at St. Louis.
"Dusty is doing well. He sends his best," Speier said. "I think everybody has to understand I'm following suit here. It hasn't been easy to take over something when the mainstay of this organization is going through what he went through. There's a definite cloud over it because we're worried about him. We're really, really happy he will be in St. Louis tonight."
Out of respect since he's been filling in, Speier has avoided working out of the manager's office. Meetings with the media at Great American Ball Park have been held outside of Baker's office. In Pittsburgh, they were in the visiting skipper's office, but Speier would not make use of the desk.
"He's our leader. I'm just the bench coach," Speier said.
Baker, 63, left the Reds on Sept. 19, hours before they were to play a game at Wrigley Field. He was initially admitted to a Chicago hospital to be treated for an irregular heartbeat but suffered a mini-stroke as he was being discharged. He returned to Cincinnati on Sept. 23.
Although Speier has been managing, Baker has either created or consulted on most of the lineups. He's also been working behind the scenes the past week for a few hours each day.
Speier didn't expect that Baker would have any limitations that would prevent him from taking on the full duties of manager.
"It'll be just like he never missed a beat. I'm looking forward to that," Speier said.
Pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who is starting on Monday vs. the Cardinals, was also pleased to know Baker would be healthy enough to return to work.
"It's always nice to have the captain of the ship around," Arroyo said. "Any way you cut it, if you're missing a 25th man on the team, it's much easier to not notice that than to miss your manager. He's the guy that brings a lot to the table. He's a head figure you want to be there to kind of represent the ballclub."