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.

Zack Greinke calls pitch out loud, reaches new level of Giants ownage

Zack Greinke calls pitch out loud, reaches new level of Giants ownage

Zack Greinke was so good Wednesday night that the Giants couldn't make contact when he told them what pitches were coming.

No, seriously.

Greinke signaled his pitch to Astros catcher MartÍn Maldonaldo in the top of the seventh inning of Houston's 5-1 win ... with runners on first and second, nobody out and Giants shortstop Mauricio Dubon stood in the batter's box.

Dubon then flew out to center on the pitch Greinke called.

“Today, there was a man on second base and it got all messed up and it took longer than I was hoping it would take,” Greinke told reporters on a video conference call (H/T's Brian McTaggart). “It’s 50 percent my fault and 50 percent Maldy’s fault. ... I don’t like taking a long time with a man on second base especially. I’m trying to find a way to speed that up. So far this year, it's been good. It got messed up today.”

[RELATED: Slater, Solano injuries expose Giants' offensive weakness in loss]

Greinke wasn't just showing off, but he had every right to with Wednesday's performance. The longtime thorn in the Giants' side struck out seven and allowed just one earned run 6 1/3 innings of work. Greinke picked up his first win of the season, improving to 14-3 in his career against the Giants and lowering his all-time ERA versus San Francisco to just 2.18. The 36-year-old has now won more games against the Giants than all but one other team.

Ownage is ownage, but signaling your own pitches ownage? That's something else entirely.

Austin Slater, Donovan Solano injuries show Giants' offensive weakness

Austin Slater, Donovan Solano injuries show Giants' offensive weakness

The Giants have made a habit of coming back in late innings, but that probably wasn't going to be in the cards on a night when Houston Astros starter Zack Greinke slipped into cruise control.

Even if he did have a shot late in Thursday's 5-1 loss, Giants manager Gabe Kapler would have been without two of his best weapons. 

Donovan Solano missed a second straight game with abdominal soreness and Austin Slater was a late scratch with right elbow pain. While the Giants are hopeful that Solano is ready Friday against the A's, the news on Slater feels more discouraging. 

Slater had a sprained elbow in 2018 but didn't miss time because it happened the last weekend of the regular season. Kapler said Slater felt discomfort swinging and throwing Wednesday, and it seems likely he's headed for an MRI when the club returns to San Francisco. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Without their two best right-handed bats, the Giants went down quietly Thursday to finish 3-7 on the road trip.

It was a 10-game journey that cemented Solano's status as an everyday player, and it showed off the improvements Slater has made at the plate. But it also demonstrated just how toothless the Giants can be when their bigger names continue to slump.

Brandon Belt went 5-for-32 on the trip with two extra-base hits, and Brandon Crawford was 6-for-28. He doesn't have an extra-base hit all season. Evan Longoria was 4-for-33 on his first road trip of the season. While Hunter Pence had a huge homer Tuesday, his 0-for-4 a night later dropped his average back to .105 for the year. Pablo Sandoval is at .179 and was notably absent on Wednesday when the late scratch of Slater forced Kapler into lineup changes against a right-hander. It's hard to see where he fits in at the moment. 

Asked about his struggling veterans, Kapler said baseball is a team game.

"I don't ever put the onus on any one individual or even on two or three," Kapler said. "I think the right way to look at this is when one guy is struggling or not consistent, then the rest of the group has to surround that player or that group of players with support."

[RELATED: Where Giants' farm system ranks in BA's mid-year update]

The problem with that is that the onus has been put on two or three guys every night because so many others are struggling. Mike Yastrzemski (who had three more hits Wednesday), Slater and Solano all have an OPS above 1.000. Nobody else on the team is above .800, and the more familiar names are all several levels below that.

That's a recipe that's not going to work, especially when two of the three main contributors are in the trainer's room.