"A long time ago," says 30-year-old Mike Krukow, "I learned that roles are not given, they're earned." Maybe so, but the Giants have certainly handed Krukow a big part for 1983. They traded their most popular player, Joe Morgan, and their lefthanded relief ace, Al Holland, to Philadelphia for Krukow and then told the world he was to be the "stopper," the pitcher they were counting on for from 30 to 35 starts and 200 or more innings.
Krukow was 13-11 last year with 33 starts and 208 innings. It was only his second winning season in a six-year career, a forgivable enough statistic when it is considered that five of those years were with the Cubs. Krukow is enthusiastic about being a Giant. "I was raised by Herman Franks in the Cubs' organization," he says, "and he would sit by the hour and tell me stories about the Giant teams he managed with Mays and McCovey and Marichal and Cepeda. I grew up in Southern California during the great Dodgers-Giants rivalry. And this is a team that matured last season. There's a hungry attitude here, and I'm infected with it."
The Giants came within two games of winning the division last year, and though Morgan and Reggie Smith (gone to Japan) are no longer around to lend spiritual guidance, San Francisco doesn't seem appreciably weakened. It has, in fact, many of the strengths and weaknesses of a year ago. The outfield of Jeff Leonard, Chili Davis and Jack Clark is especially strong. Beefed-up Johnnie LeMaster (165 pounds to 188) is a capable shortstop, but the rest of the infield poses nagging questions. Can 22-year-old Tom O'Malley, a .275 hitter in '82, do the job at third? Is Duane Kuiper's right knee, severely injured three years ago, strong enough to permit him to play a full season at second in place of Morgan? And, inevitably, who's on first now that Smith is gone? Most likely, Darrell Evans.
The bullpen, where Greg Minton and Gary Lavelle lurk, is one of the best, and in Atlee Hammaker and Bill Laskey the Giants have two 25-year-olds who won 25 games between them last year, even though both started the season in the minors. A fourth starter, forkballer Fred Breining, was called in from the bullpen late last season, and he will now carry nearly as much of the load as Krukow.
A native San Franciscan, Breining is delighted by the challenge. "I love the responsibility," he says. "I feel more relaxed, more secure. I like the idea of my friends and family being there to see me. I can just picture my grandfather strutting into the park when I start. I was proud to be a part of our bullpen, but, look, I could've spent the rest of my life backing up Minton. And I didn't want to be traded away from my home. Now, if I can go five or six strong innings, Minton will come in to give me the W. My only problem is finding tickets for my 11 brothers and sisters on days I pitch."
San Francisco was a late-inning club. In games decided from the seventh inning on, the Giants were 41-23. Getting hits when they counted was one reason for this success; the other was bullpen effectiveness. The relievers had 60 chances for saves and got 45, with Greg Minton leading the way with 30 of 37. But there was just no overcoming a staggering 173 errors made by the defense.