Tigers' lefty Ian Krol knows it's make-or-break spring

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers reliever Ian Krol wins the bubble gum-blowing contest during a stop of the Tigers Winter Caravan on Thursday in Sterling Heights.

Detroit — Tigers left-handed reliever Ian Krol is a little touchy on the topic of the Green Bay Packers these days.

"Come on, now," he said Thursday when he was asked about the Packers loss in Seattle last weekend.

Krol's family has season tickets at Lambeau Field and he was having quite a time on Twitter after the Packers beat the Lions in Week 17. But, he quickly realized he was poking at his own paying customers.

"I cooled off after we beat the Lions," Krol said. "I kind of stopped tweeting. I was getting blown up a little bit. But, man, that was tough for the Packers. I just can't believe they lost like that. Pathetic."

Krol, of course, has more pressing issues on his plate now as spring training draws near. The sting of how last season ended — with him being left off the playoff roster — persists. He knows this could be a make or break spring for him.

"This is a very important year for me," he said.

Krol, the last remaining piece of the Doug Fister trade two years ago, won the job as the team's primary left-hand reliever in spring training last year. But after a strong first two months, his production fell off dramatically (13 runs, 23 hits allowed in his final 13.1 innings).

Both president and general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus have reached out to Krol this offseason. Their message — we still believe in you, but you have to work harder to reclaim your spot.

"He has to come back and pitch well to be on the club," Dombrowski said during the winter meetings last month. "He doesn't have a spot like, 'Hey, you are on the team.' But we think he can be a very valuable part of our team."

Ausmus said Krol's arm got weary quickly and he never was able to regain his velocity.

"When we didn't call him up in September, I spoke to him and Jonesy (pitching coach Jeff Jones) spoke to him," Ausmus said. "We need to do some things differently. We need to see more out of you. He's not a given to be on the team, but if he can turn that corner — he's worked hard and he seems committed to it — I still think this guy can be a really good left-handed relief pitcher."

Krol heeded the message. He's been lifting weights since October and he said he's put on 12 to 15 pounds of new muscle.

"I've been doing a lot of training, strengthening each shoulder," he said. "I feel like I put myself in a good position to hopefully break with the club."

He was candid about what went wrong last season.

"I slipped up in my workouts through the season," he said. "In season, my work ethic wasn't as hard as it was in the off season. One thing I am trying to get a grasp on is being consistent throughout the season and having a workout regimen throughout the week during the season."

He said he wasn't on any daily workout program other than his throwing regimen.

"It's just work ethic," he said. "It's getting your work in and pretty much just being patient with your arm, knowing what's wrong and what's right. I am doing all the right things."

The Tigers signed veteran left-hander Tom Gorzelanny. Krol will also be competing with left-hander Blaine Hardy and possibly Kyle Ryan, plus non-roster invitees Omar Duran and Joe Mantiply, for one or two left-hand reliever roles.