Giants

Check out first look at Giants' new completed bullpens at Oracle Park

Check out first look at Giants' new completed bullpens at Oracle Park

The Giants have 25 pitchers set to report to Oracle Park on Wednesday for the start of Summer Camp. When they arrive, they'll find the new bullpen mounds are ready for them.

A remodel that was announced in December but delayed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been completed. Here are the first photos of the new bullpens in center field.

The bullpen closer to Triples Alley will be for visitors and the one closer to left field is for the Giants. There's an open area for the batting cage in the middle, which is rolled out behind the plate every afternoon for BP. When fans do eventually return to Oracle Park, they'll find that there are seats overlooking the bullpens as well as terraces that look directly down on them (you can see the terrace in the first two pictures).

[RELATED: Position battles to watch as Giants prepare to start season]

The Giants began construction in December to move their bullpens off the field, where outfielders had tripped over them for years. Construction was shut down in all of San Francisco in March because of the coronavirus outbreak but resumed at Oracle Park in late May. 

The new bullpens will take a significant chunk out of the outfield, making the park slightly easier for hitters. Triples Alley is coming in from 421 feet to 415, the center-field wall is moving in eight feet and the edge of left-center field is moving in five feet. The wall is seven feet tall and includes chain link fencing so players can watch the game. The bullpen also includes bathrooms, with a shower that now might come in handy during a season where social distancing is encouraged. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow provide outlook on different 2020 MLB season

Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow provide outlook on different 2020 MLB season

With Spring Training 2.0 opening up around Major League Baseball this weekend, no one is more excited about the return of our National Pastime than the legendary voices of Giants baseball, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. 

“I’m thrilled," Kuiper said during a recent conversation. "I’m thrilled for me, personally, selfishly that I get to go to the ballpark and do a game with Mike. Now I can’t wait for the schedule to come out and drive to the ballpark. I’ll even be happy stuck in traffic driving to the park.”

“Well, he’ll be happy for like two days stuck in traffic.” Krukow said.

And there’s a lot to look forward to in what will be a season unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Instead of a marathon, it’s become a 60-game sprint, which Krukow believes is a huge advantage for a team like the Giants.

“It’s a golden opportunity," Krukow said. "Everyone keeps talking about the rebuild. Well, the Giants have one of the older teams in baseball. What older teams have learned, especially the ones who have been champions, they learn the importance of chemistry. They learn the importance of a good attitude. And I think that is going to be paramount when they gather up.

"We thought the Giants had a great spring training. There was really a nice foundation being laid of a positive vibe. If they get off to a good start, it’s a sprint. They could be in the playoffs. And once they get into the playoffs, who knows what could happen.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kuiper agrees with his broadcast partner.

“Yeah, I mean, think about the 60 games," Kuiper said. "It’s equivalent to almost one game equals three games. So if you had a three-game winning streak, it’s like an eight- or nine-game winning streak, for during the regular season. But on the other hand, if you go in the toilet early, well, then you’re probably looking at prospects. So you have to get off to a good start.”

There’s also a handful of new rules to adjust to, that has Kruk & Kuip intrigued. MLB already had instituted the three-batter minimum for relievers entering the game. But now there will be a universal designated hitter, and while it’s technically planned for just this season, Kuiper thinks it might be here to stay.

“You know the DH, as much as we b---h about people in the National League that don’t like it, it’s coming," Kuiper said. "And I don’t think there’s any way we can stop it. I think the Players Association wants it. And if they want it, and they can use that as a tool for negotiations, then I think eventually that’s just the way it’s going to be.

“I’ve said it before, for every Madison Bumgarner at the plate, there’s 30 Atlee Hammakers.”

But the biggest change in this shortened season will be what happens in extra innings, when teams start with a runner at second base in an effort to end games quicker and avoid those exhausting all-nighters, which Krukow believes is essential to protecting pitchers.

“It’s kinda like starting your offense from the 25-yard line in football, it’s like what?" Krukow said. "But I think now, because there is a vulnerability to injury when you haven’t had a full spring training for your pitchers, the rule makes sense. The one thing you dread is an extra-inning game going 17, 18 innings. It just destroys your staff. And I think that was the real reason they put this into effect to sort of protect the physical side of your pitching staff. So I think it’s going to be fun.”

Yeah, maybe fun for the runner at second, but the pitcher entering the game, not so much. A fact, Krukow, a former pitcher, was quick to point out. But there is another reason he loves the idea.

“You know what I think? The bunt has just completely been almost removed from the game," Krukow said. "And I always thought it was a beautiful thing to watch a good sacrifice bunt. Or a good at-bat when a hitter hit a ball to the right side of the infield to get that runner over. When you start that inning with a runner on second base, you’re going to see small ball back. I’m looking forward to it.”

One thing is for certain, this season will be strange in so many ways, but Kuiper believes, “if you’re going to try something different, now is the time to do it.”

The toughest challenge no doubt will be keeping everyone safe in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic. The other will be adjusting to the constant changes as routines are broken and possibly altered consistently throughout the entire two-month season. Krukow believes how the Giants handle it will be key to their success.

“We get back to attitude," Krukow said. "When you’re in the world of baseball, a routine is so much a part of your day. It’s so much a part of the rhythm you take right into the game. And nothing throws off an athlete or baseball player more than having his routine broken up. So it’s going to be really important that you overcome it mentally as a group.

"That’s going to give you an edge early on. And one bad apple or attitude could spoil a whole clubhouse. That’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how players react to having routines on a routine basis upset.”

As Krukow’s broadcast partner of 30 years, Kuiper is keeping it real.

“I don’t care about the players routine, it’s our routine that they’re messing with," Kuiper said. "I mean those three hours before a game starts, that’s the most fun three hours that we have. And that’s totally changed now. I mean we’re going to be in separate booths, how about that? But yeah, we are built around routines. We were as players, we certainly are as broadcasters. And that routine is shattered and we’ll just have to figure it out.”

[RELATED: Posey has support of Kapler, Giants]

And that brings us to what will be missing this season, that cannot be replaced. The fans. While the games will go on, Krukow knows they won’t be the same down at 3rd and King.

“That’s going to be the worst part of this whole thing," Krukow said. "The energy from our fans in San Francisco is something that, I don’t care how tired you are, when you walk in that ballpark, the electricity in the yard fills you up and we all count on it. Players count on it, we count on it. Everybody. All the fans count on it. It is going to be odd.”

But hey, at least there will be fan cut-outs in the stands at Oracle Park, and you better believe, if someone’s face gets knocked down by a foul ball, Kruk & Kuip still will be ruthless, in the best way possible.

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

It's extremely common to hear about a player opting out in baseball. Stars have often had opt-out clauses for the final year of their deals, and in recent years many have given themselves the ability to opt out after just a year or two of a massive contract. At the end of every spring, non-roster invitees opt out to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. 

But this season, those two words take on a different meaning. 

Under a March agreement reached by MLB and the Players Association, high-risk players can opt out of the 2020 because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.

On the first day of the week MLB was set to return, four players opted out. Here's a rundown of where the list currently stands:

Mike Leake (Diamondbacks starting pitcher)

The 32-year-old was the first to publicly make his intentions known. Leake's agent told reporters that the right-hander "took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family." There has been some speculation that Leake had family concerns; his father was paralyzed in an accident a few years ago and that's in part why he ended up close to home with the Diamondbacks.

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals first baseman)

Zimmerman is exactly the type of player you would think of when it comes to guys who had a difficult decision to make in recent weeks. He's 35 and now is a part-time player, and he's set for life financially and got his ring last October. In a statement put out by his agency, he made it clear this is about concerns for his family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis:

Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)

Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out Monday. He did not immediately release a statement. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross decided "not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year."

Ian Desmond (Rockies outfielder)

The 34-year-old announced his decision at the end of a series of Instagram posts that examined injustices in baseball and society. It was a powerful statement, and one you should read in full here:

View this post on Instagram

On my mind.

A post shared by Ian Desmond (@i_dez20) on

Tyson Ross (free agent starting pitcher)

It was a bit of a surprise when Ross was released by the Giants last week. As a veteran who could start or come out of the bullpen, he seemed like a good fit for what they were building in March, and an even better fit in a season with no true five-man rotation. But this seems to explain the decision: 

David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)

The biggest name in MLB to this date to withdraw, Price announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 season on social media during the holiday weekend. The southpaw didn't get specific on the reasoning behind it, but said the decision was in the "best interest of my health and my family's health." 


Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)

Another former Cy Young award winner has decided not to play during the 2020 MLB season.

Felix Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young while with the Seattle Mariners, won't suit up for the Atlanta Braves this season, he agent tweeted Saturday night.

After spending the first 15 seasons of his career with the Mariners, Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with Atlanta this offseason. He will turn 35 next April, when the 2021 MLB season is expected to start.