With quick release, Krol on Tigers' fast track
Left-hander acquired in Fister trade making his case for permanent role in 'pen
JUPITER, Fla. -- Ian Krol pitches like he's in a hurry to get somewhere. It's not hurting his path to a full-time job in the big leagues.
He has what Brad Ausmus calls a quick arm. It doesn't mean he lights up a radar gun with a hard fastball; plenty of pitchers who throw hard have a long delivery to build that velocity. Krol has a quick delivery and a quick release, which not only allows him to hide the ball but gives him a little bit of deception.
"Yeah, it's sling-shotty," Krol said. "It's kind of like short-arm. It was never like that when I was a starter [until last year]. It was long and everything was slow and to the plate. Now it's quick. I think it's because I did change my arm angle from three-quarters to a little higher. Also throwing harder, trying to get a little more out of the fastball."
That's nothing, however, compared to the quick pace he employs when he gets rolling with those pitches. As he worked through the Marlins order in the seventh inning, his pace was more Monday morning rush-hour than lazy Sunday afternoon. As soon as he'd get the ball back, he'd be ready to deliver it again.
"I like to go at guys. I don't waste any time," Krol said. "I like to get in and get out. Back in the Minor Leagues, I was a starter and they would have to chart pitches, and I would be so quick that they couldn't chart the last pitch."
The quick delivery kind of came about naturally. The quick pace was clearly intentional, and it reflects his personality.
"Always rapid fire," Krol said, smiling. "Come in, guns blazing."
The combination makes it easy to miss a pitch or two. Blink and he might have an 0-2 count. The way he's pitching, though, has the Tigers' attention. He had their attention before he put on the uniform.
Four years ago, the Tigers used a blockbuster trade to bolster their left-handed relief, acquiring a relatively unknown pitcher named Phil Coke as part of the Curtis Granderson trade to the Yankees that also brought Max Scherzer over from Arizona. It was a move that paid off soon after, and essentially saved their bullpen in the 2012 postseason once Jose Valverde lost the closer job.
Now, as the Tigers deal with the ripple effects from the Doug Fister trade and talent evaluators scrutinize starting prospect Robbie Ray, Krol lurks as potentially Detroit's next big piece on the left-handed side of the bullpen. After Coke's struggles with health and effectiveness last season, and Drew Smyly's move back to the rotation, Krol could quietly be as much of a key to the Tigers' bullpen makeover as closer Joe Nathan.
He's not waiting around to show what he has.
Krol threw 19 pitches in retiring the Marlins in order on Sunday, but the inning was seemingly over in just a couple minutes. He played pitch-and-catch with catcher James McCann on right-handed hitting leadoff man Marcell Ozuna, who struck out on a 90-mph fastball. His next right-handed batter, Casey McGehee, took a fastball and breaking ball for an 0-2 count before grounding out.
The one left-handed hitter Krol faced, Greg Dobbs, worked the count full, fouling off two fastballs to stay alive. Krol finally retired him on a breaking ball that was too close to the outside corner for him to lay off, popping it into left field.
"My breaking ball has come a long way," Krol said. "I've been able to throw it in different counts. Today, I threw a 3-2 breaking ball. I've been able to locate it, throw it for strikes, backdoor it inside. That was the main goal I focused on in the offseason."
The breaking ball helps him against right-handed hitters. The quick arm and pace gives him a deceptiveness against everybody. So far this spring, he's been particularly tough, having thrown four scoreless innings of one-hit ball with a walk and five strikeouts. As the Tigers go along, the 22-year-old seemingly has a chance to become Detroit's big lefty.
Unlike Coke, Krol comes on board with relatively little Major League experience. He didn't reach the big leagues until midseason last year, and his usage left him with just 27 1/3 innings over 32 appearances. Tigers scout Mike Russell had a report ready on him when the Tigers began talks with the Nationals on acquiring a starting pitcher.
Ausmus, meanwhile, had a scouting report on Krol before he became a manager. He did his research on the Nationals roster while he was a candidate for their job opening, which eventually went to Matt Williams.
He saw the stats and heard the opinions. Seeing Krol up close, however, has still been a learning experience, including the pace.
"The way he pitches, it seems like he's kind of a gunslinger," Ausmus said. "He's going out there six guns shooting. He's ready to go, and he does not seem like he's intimidated by a situation or afraid of a hitter. Those are intangibles that are sometimes tough to come by in young pitchers."
If the pace doesn't sufficiently show Krol isn't pitching scared, the approach does. He does not buy into the notion of a lefty specialist.
"To be honest with you, every at-bat is important," Krol said. "Left-handed, right-handed, doesn't matter. You're trying to go out there and do your job. But for me, I think I should be able to go out and get righties out as easily as I can get lefties out. It shouldn't [just] be a lefty-on-lefty situation. I'll go in there and face everybody. Every pitch is as important as the next one."
Every pitch is big for him this spring. Every pitch is coming quickly. So could his opportunity.