Baker wants to know soon

Tribune staff reporter

Dusty Baker still doesn't know when he will meet with general manager Jim Hendry to discuss whether he will be retained as the Cubs' manager.

Before Tuesday's 14-6 rout of Milwaukee at Wrigley Field, Baker expressed the desire to get a timetable on his meeting so he can plan on how much stuff to move when he returns to his San Francisco home.

"I'm hoping it's sooner rather than later, so I'll know and can make up my mind to leave some stuff or take everything," Baker said.

While Baker pondered his future, Joe Girardi reiterated he wants to remain as Florida's manager and isn't thinking about the Cubs job.

"People want to speculate about, 'Oh, he wants to go to Chicago,'" Girardi told reporters in Miami. "I sold my house in Chicago. No man in his right mind would sell a house in Chicago for eight months. I sold my house, I uprooted my family, I moved my kids here."

Because he's held in such high regard by fans and Cubs management, Girardi is the most obvious candidate to succeed Baker if the Cubs go in a new direction.

But several lower-profile candidates also may receive consideration, including Oakland third-base coach Ron Washington, San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti and Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Bud Black. Girardi is not as much a slam-dunk as many seem to believe.

The Cubs hope to get through this final week of the season with as little talk as necessary about possible changes, but that figures to be a difficult task with Baker and most of his staff under evaluation.

In a game played before several thousand fewer fans than the announced crowd of 31,932, the Cubs rapped out 18 hits against Brewers pitching to improve to 64-94.

While St. Louis lost its seventh straight and watched Houston creep to within 1½ games in the Central Division, Baker said the Cardinals' late-season fade doesn't make the Cubs' lost season any easier to take.

"We are where we are," he said. "You don't like to see anybody struggle, because we've all been in their situation. … You don't wish bad on anybody either, because we've all had our share of that."

Jacque Jones and John Mabry homered and drove in three runs apiece, while Henry Blanco went 4-for-5 and tied a career high with four RBIs.

Rookie left-hander Sean Marshall (6-9) pitched six strong innings, picking up his first victory in seven starts since beating Houston on July 5 at Minute Maid Park.

Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect inning in a mop-up role, and rookie catcher Jose Reyes chipped in with his first career hit, a two-run single that capped the scoring binge. The Cubs are now 7-8 against Milwaukee, with the final game of the season series on Wednesday night.

As the Cubs' season dwindles, Baker realizes his time in Chicago may be ticking down as well.

He spoke of how the '06 season has flown by so quickly, and said his wife, Melissa, asked him Monday if he was looking forward to going back to San Francisco.

"I told her I'm not ready to go home," Baker said. "A season to me isn't over until the World Series is over."

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