John Kruk sat there all alone, wearing a T-shirt that read: “Reliable Bail Bonds.”
If he’d been a reliable base runner, his eyes wouldn’t have been so red.
“It was just stupid on my part,” he was saying. “Just stupid.”
Some of his San Diego Padre teammates walked up and said they had run like geeks before, so not to worry.
“Yeah, a couple guys have already told me, ‘Don’t worry, get ‘em tomorrow,’ ” Kruk said. “But . . .”
So here are the confessions of a rookie, alone to cope with his first opening day.
Ah, it wasn’t that bad. Steve Garvey singled to left in the ninth inning, moving Kevin McReynolds to third, and Garvey himself was no twinkle-toes. He slipped rounding first and said he would have made it to second if he hadn’t.
Anyway, Kruk came in to run for Garvey because Manager Steve Boros said Kruk is two steps quicker than the Garv.
The next batter, Carmelo Martinez, worked Fernando Valenzuela to a 2-and-1 count. Third-base coach Jack Krol touched his head, his hips, etc., and gave Kruk and Martinez the hit-and-run sign. Martinez swung. Martinez missed.
So Kruk was caught between first and second. What to do?
If he goes all out, he may be able to steal second, especially if it’s a bad throw from the catcher. Or if he doesn’t go all out, he can get caught in a rundown and maybe the runner can score from third.
Uh oh. He did neither.
First, he got a bad jump off Valenzuela because, heaven knows, he didn’t want to get picked off.
“That would’ve been stupider,” he said.
Then, he slowed down halfway to the base. Then, he saw that catcher Mike Scioscia’s throw was high, so he sped up again.
He was out.
No rundown. No Padre run.
And wouldn’t you know it? After Martinez ended up striking out, Garry Templeton singled, a hit that would have brought in two runs had Kruk reached second base.
San Diego loses, 2-1.
“If I kept going, it’s a close play because it’s a high throw from (Scioscia),” Kruk said. “But how am I supposed to know he’d make a high throw?”
He turned to teammate Gene Walter and asked: “Gene, if I keep running, am I out?”
Walter said yes.
Teammate Tim Flannery walked by. “You couldn’t have been safe,” he said. “What were you supposed to do? Go into your Spiderman slide?”
Kruk: “I don’t know.”
Off in another corner, Boros was saying how baserunning lost the game. Did he blame Kruk? No.
There was Garvey slipping around first when he had that sure double, and there was newly acquired Marvell Wynne getting picked off first base in the seventh, and there was Martinez failing to advance from first to third on a base hit in the fifth, and there was Martinez subsequently getting thrown out when he tried to score on Jerry Royster’s single.
Boros spent all spring preaching baserunning.
The Padres stole 60 bases last year, and had 35 alone in this year’s exhibitions.
So explain it.
“Opening-day jitters,” Boros said. “I think that’s a part of it. It’s a big part of it. A big part.”
Here were the big plays, up closer:
--Garvey’s slip. “I never remember that situation happening,” Garvey said. “In 15 years.”
--Boros’ decision to pinch-run Kruk. “What if Garv hadn’t slipped and made it to second?” Boros asked. “And what if he’d then been out at the plate on a single? I might not sleep well tonight anyway, but I definitely wouldn’t have slept if that had happened. I had to go to Kruk.”
--Wynne getting picked off. “It would’ve been a hit and run,” Boros said.
“Well,” Wynne said, “I left before (Valenzuela) picked up his leg. I was just trying to be too aggressive.”
--Martinez failing to go from first to third on Templeton’s single in the fifth. “I didn’t see Jack (Krol) signaling,” Martinez said. “He was hidden behind the third baseman.”
Krol: “Yeah, he couldn’t see me. I was waving him.”
--Martinez getting thrown out at the plate by left fielder Franklin Stubbs. “We scouted his arm, and (Martinez) should’ve been waved in,” Boros said.
Krol said: “Stubbs just threw a strike.”
--And, finally, there’s Kruk. “Man, I don’t know. I’ve run the bases a million times,” he said.
But Monday was No. 1 as a big leaguer.