Tigers' Krol pitching like a man on a mission
Sarasota, Fla. – If you sensed some urgency in the way Tigers reliever Ian Krol pitched in his first spring outing Wednesday, well, you sensed correctly.
Krol is in a dogfight to win a spot on the Tigers' opening day roster. He essentially has two options: either outpitch veteran Tom Gorzelanny for the main left-hander role, or convince pitching coach Jeff Jones and the Tigers he can pitch long relief (and even then he would have to outpitch Blaine Hardy and Kyle Ryan).
Krol, though, isn't shrinking from the task. He retired three right-handed batters in the fifth inning. Right-handers hit .348 against him last season, with a .410 on-base percentage and .638 slugging percentage.
He has developed a cutter this spring, one taught to him by Alex Wilson.
"I am gaining confidence in it, for sure," he said. "That's going to help me against right-handers; my change-up, too. But the cutter has come a long way. It's hard, too, like 90-91 mph – which is nice."
What manager Brad Ausmus likes is Krol had the confidence to throw a breaking ball when he was behind in the count. He got crushed last year trying to beat hitters with fastballs in fastball counts.
"The thing we like that he did, he mixed that cutter-slider that he's been playing with and he threw a really good change-up," Ausmus said. "And, he threw a breaking ball behind in the count for a strike. That's something we've been on him about and he took it to heart."
Krol retired Delmon Young on an infield pop-up, Manny Machado on a grounder and he struck out Caleb Joseph. Oddly, he walked the only left-handed batter he faced.
"Krol has been outstanding this spring," Ausmus said. "Not only with his work effort but he is the first one in the clubhouse every day. He's really paying attention to every part of his career right now."
The Tigers were successful on two defensive shifts Wednesday. Moving third baseman Nick Castellanos into short right field, Matt Wieters in the first inning and Chris Davis in the fourth hit balls right to him.
"We have to practice these things so when we get to the season we'll be able to do it," Ausmus said. "We were looking for opportunities to run the shift. Today it worked."
… Alex and Kristina Avila welcomed their second child at 12:18 Wednesday afternoon – a girl, Zoey.