Kruk to replace Francona in ESPN Sunday booth

John Kruk is following Bobby Valentine and Terry Francona into

ESPN’s Sunday night baseball booth.

Is he going to emulate them and wind up managing a major league

team in 2014?

”I think that is why they are putting me in the booth,” Kruk

said before adding: ”Ain’t no chance of that happening.”

A member of ESPN’s studio team since 2004, the three-time

All-Star was announced Monday as the new partner of Dan Shulman and

Orel Hershiser, giving ESPN a different trio for the third straight

season after 21 consecutive years with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.

Buster Olney remains as the crew’s reporter.

Shulman and Hershiser were in the Sunday night booth in 2011

along with Valentine, who left to become manager of the Red Sox and

was replaced by Francona, Boston’s manager from 2004-11. Francona

departed ESPN in October to become Cleveland’s manager.

Kruk has been working in the Bristol, Conn., studio about eight

days a month and has filled in on game coverage. He expects his

studio work to be roughly cut in half next season when he shifts to

Sunday nights, ESPN’s top baseball event because it has an

exclusive window.

He never wanted to be a game analyst.

”I was always uncomfortable when former players came into your

clubhouse, and I don’t know why I felt that way,” Kruk said.

He began to change his mind about game work when he accompanied

Valentine on ESPN’s bus tour of spring training sites.

”I got more carte blanche at ballparks than some of the other

guys,” he said Sunday. ”I was in the training room, talking to

players. Bobby Valentine took me to some parts I wasn’t supposed to

be in. Wish he’d told me when I had to get out.”

Kruk then realized ”you get more information when you’re there

than just sitting in the studio.”

He hit .300 and had exactly 100 home runs during a big league

career from 1986-95 with San Diego, Philadelphia and the Chicago

White Sox. His most famous moment occurred during the 1993 All-Star

game at Baltimore, when Randy Johnson’s first pitch to him was a

fastball that sailed way over Kruk’s head.

Kruk pounded his heart in jest, flinched at a strike down the

middle, flailed at two curveballs and then bowed to Johnson.

Part of the reason for his newfound comfort in the booth is that

very few players remain from his time on the field.

”Unless Jamie Moyer comes back,” Kruk said, laughing.

Actually, there are a few others, including Derek Jeter, Andy

Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Kruk thought he may have been part of Rivera’s first game for

the Yankees. Actually, it was the fifth appearance for Rivera, a

Fourth of July game when he pitched shutout ball for the first time

– eight scoreless innings. Kruk took a called third strike and

walked twice in Chicago’s 4-1 loss.