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The Song of Kroon: Best Story Line of Spring Training?

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Readers of the Internet's fine print will know the Giants have invited veteran reliever Mark Kroon to spring camp. He's a veteran, that is, if you count his non-MLB experience, because he's only pitched in 26 major league games, with just as many walks and not quite as many strikeouts. Wild thing, indeed. But the 38-year-old starboarder -- 38! -- has 347 minor-league games on his resume, which stretches back to 1991.

Tack on four years most recently as a superstar closer in Japan (and still hitting triple digits on the radar gun), Kroon enters 2011 with 345 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera on the active professional list, as BP's Christina Kahrl noted in her latest Transactions column. Kahrl writes that Kroon is a longshot, having to beat out Guillermo Mota and Dan Runzler, but last I checked Runzler is being converted to a starter. He could still come up to provide left-handed relief if Javy Lopez or Jeremy Affeldt falters, but it's unlikely Runzler will make the team straight out of camp. Kahrl could, however, add Jeff Suppan to the list of obstacles for Kroon.

A quick review of the Giants bullpen: B. Wilson, S. Romo, J. Affeldt, J. Lopez, are locks, S. Casilla and R. Ramirez are probables, Mota has an inside track thanks to his serviceable work last year, and Suppan could come aboard as the long man if the brass wants built-in rotation insurance (a situation I think the Giants can avoid, as I described here). 

Who knows, after a few Cactus League games of nearly knocking flat the on-deck hitter with errant heaves, Kroon's feel-good story might melt away like Denny Bautista in the August heat of Coors Field. But Kroon is just a few cups of coffee away from being a 38-year-old major-league virgin, he has legions of rabid Japanese fans, he throws 100 MPH, and he wins best player Web site. It's not just in Japanese and English, but has a dedication to his Grandma Hilda, who passed away in 2008.

What's not to love?  

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