Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker laughs as he watches batting...

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker laughs as he watches batting practice before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Oct. 1, 2012) Credit: AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- Minus his signature toothpick, Cincinnati's Dusty Baker leaned against the batting cage watching his players just as he did for a decade managing the Giants.

Baker is back in the Bay Area for the playoffs, 10 years after he came so close to winning a World Series with San Francisco. These days, he is conserving energy after an 11-game absence because of a mini-stroke.

Sometimes Baker still feels the sting of that near-miss, even now, two managerial stops removed from his first career gig as skipper, in the place he has long called home. Baker figures to be cheered by fans at AT&T Park -- "some of 'em," he quipped -- when the Reds open the playoffs Saturday against the Giants in a National League Division Series.

Cincinnati will start Johnny Cueto (19-9) in Game 1 against San Francisco's Matt Cain (16-5). Sunday, the Reds will start Bronson Arroyo (12-10) and the Giants will go with Madison Bumgarner (16-11).

For Game 3 in Cincinnati on Tuesday, the Reds plan to start Mat Latos (14-4) then go with Homer Bailey if Game 4 is necessary on Wednesday. The Giants have not scheduled starters for those games.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said though two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (10-15) and lefthander Barry Zito (15-8) have been key for the Giants down the stretch, Bochy may just use them out of the bullpen. That goes for fifth starter Ryan Vogelsong (14-9) as well. -- AP

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