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Baker preaches running to pitchers

Baker preaches running to pitchers

CINCINNATI -- Don't let Reds manager Dusty Baker's taste in music fool you.

Yeah, Baker might listen to some rap, the musical genre of contemporary times. But Baker's more old school in his thinking than he is hip-hop.

Take his thoughts on his young pitchers, for example.

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Baker encourages them to run -- and run a lot. He's not talking about running on a treadmill or, as he says, on that "artificial stuff" like a StairClimber.

"I don't say that that's not good, especially if you can't take the pounding," Baker says of treadmills and their fitness cousins. "But there's no substitute for running."

Strong legs lead to strong arms, Baker says. And the legs can only get strong through running -- run, run, run, run and run, he says.

He learned the value of running from teammates back in his playing days. What's good enough for them is good enough for his players, Baker says.

"I remember watching Ferguson Jenkins in Spring Training," Baker says. "He ran the whole game -- line to line the entire game. And everybody wondered why he went 300 innings. He ran."

He hopes running will do for Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey what it did for his Dodgers teammates, Don Sutton, Tommy John and Rick Sutcliffe, not to mention Jenkins.

"These cats would leave out before [batting practice] running up in the hills around Dodger Stadium, and they wouldn't come back until the end of BP," Baker says.

So he's brought that thinking to his teaching with the Reds. Baker believes in it, because he's seen what it has done in the past.

"There's no substitute for running," he says. "I tell little kids to run. How many little kids do you see running?"

He's instilled that running spirit in his son, 8-year-old Brandon. Baker does so because he believes it has value. He believes in it because he ran in his boyhood.

"We used to run just to take off running," Baker said. "First thing your momma hollered, 'Quit running -- quit running through the house.' That kid that runs is going to be somebody."

No doubt Baker believes in it, which is why he's looking to see that running spirit in his young pitchers. He wants them to be "somebody" before their careers end. Maybe a Jenkins will emerge from the group. Or maybe a Sutton or a Sutcliffe.

Baker believes the running will help, which is why he teaches its value to his pitchers. Those are lessons he's learned from his baseball past -- lessons, if learned, that can apply to today.

Those are lessons that are playing themselves out with the young arms on Baker's pitching staff.

See them run, indeed. And see them run a lot, too.

"You've got to start training 'em now," says Baker, smiling.

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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