CINCINNATI -- When the Reds hit a sour stretch late in the first month of last season -- they were 7-11 after 18 games -- manager Dusty Baker took his collective players to the woodshed via team meeting.
The April 24, 2010, meeting came after a poor loss to the Padres where numerous errors and mental gaffes were made. It doesn't appear such a team meeting is imminent this time around, even as the Reds fell to a 9-9 mark entering Thursday's finale with the D-backs.
"Last year's meeting was a little different," Baker said. "You don't kick people when they're down if they're busting their butt. We're not whole yet, either. Now, kicking the ball around and not hustling, that's going to [tick] me off."
By not being whole, Baker is referring to the loss of 40 percent of the rotation in Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. Both have been out with shoulder injuries since the start of the season. Brandon Phillips missed all four games of the Pirates series earlier in the homestand with a groin injury.
The Reds have struggled mightily since starting 2011 with a 5-0 record. Obviously, excuses don't go far in this game. Neither does freaking out.
"The main thing you don't do is panic," Baker said. "I was taught in the Marines that you don't panic. You figure a way out of the situation. That's the first thing I teach my son. That's how I was taught in the Marines. That's how I live my life. You don't panic, but you can make things happen too, to force the issue sometimes. We might have to change our game plan some."
How might the Reds do that?
"I can't tell you that," Baker said. "That's what we see on CNN. We tell everybody when we're coming."
Baker routinely tries to remain upbeat around his players, even when losing takes its toll on him personally.
"Sometimes, I have to go to my Academy Awards [acting] as well in front of them," he said. "You haven't slept and you've got to be like 'Hey, good morning!'"