After three years, Ian Krol's journey finally lands him back to big leagues with Tigers
Minneapolis — You can’t blame Ian Krol if he immediately thought the worst.
It was Tuesday night and the Toledo Mud Hens were trying to lock up a win in Omaha. The lefty Krol was warmed up and ready and he was summoned in the ninth inning to close out the game.
“I ran out of the bullpen and I got about six steps, just about to the grass, and they waved me back,” Krol said. “I just stopped and put my hands on my knees. Then I started thinking to myself, ‘It’s probably something good.’ But it was whirlwind of emotions those last 45 minutes wondering what was happening.”
What was happening was, finally, after he’d been dominating hitters in Triple A for the last couple of months, he got the call. The 30-year-old Krol was going back to the big leagues for the first time since 2018.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” he said. “Once I get into a game and start rolling it’ll set in emotionally. But right now I’ve been riding on a bit of an adrenalin rush that’s been pretty cool.”
Those 45 minutes in the bullpen, waiting for the game to end (the Mud Hens ended up blowing the save and losing the game), wondering why he was shut down, had to be agonizing.
Because while Krol was throwing 15.2 innings of scoreless baseball over his last 13 games, one reliever after another not named Ian Krol was either having their contract purchased or being called up to the big leagues.
Alex Lange, Rony Garcia, Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows, all on the 40-man roster, were called up before Krol. Erasmo Ramirez, Jason Foley, Buck Farmer (who had been designated for assignment and signed back), Wily Peralta and Miguel Del Pozo were all non-roster players who were purchased and brought up before Krol.
“I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things happen to other people and I’ve seen a lot of things happen to me,” he said. “I was really just trying to take it day by day and not get too far ahead of myself.
“Watching other guys get called up before me can be frustrating. But you can also look at it in a different light. I was happy for those guys. We had a good team down there and everybody jelled well. And ultimately I ended up pitching well enough to get an opportunity, as well.”
That kind of perspective comes from a guy who spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues (with the Tigers in 2014 and 2015) and then bounced around in four different organizations and spent 2020 in a quasi-Independent league.
“You have good days and you have bad days,” he said. “Sometimes you can be too high and sometimes you can be too low in this game. When you are too low you talk to the people who care most about you and they tell you exactly how it is and where you were last year and how much you have worked and how far you have come.
“It kind of re-sets everything and puts it in perspective.”
Krol still brings his fastball in anywhere from 92-95 mph. He still has his trusty cutter-slider hybrid, his get-out-jail card when he gets into unfavorable counts. And his curveball still bites and sinks. The difference, though, is the consistency of his command.
He’s got 22 strikeouts and five walks in his last 15 outings. He’s got a 67% strike rate and 50% of the balls put in play against him are ground balls in that stretch.
“Mainly I’ve been focusing on first-pitch strikes, winning 1-1 counts and avoiding three-ball counts,” he said. “The curveball is working very well, trying to tunnel it with the fastball up in the zone. My body feels good. My mind is where I need to be. I’m ready to go.”
Turnbull, Boyd updates
Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter briefed manager AJ Hinch on the status of histwo injured veteran starters Spencer Turnbull (forearm) and Matthew Boyd (general arm soreness). It was bad news-good news.
“The news was pretty good about Boyd and that kind of balanced my day after Spencer’s report was not too good,” Hinch said.
Turnbull was examined in Dallas by specialist Dr. Keith Meister and was advised, as he was by the Tigers’ doctors, to stop his throwing program indefinitely.
“He’s not going to be throwing for the foreseeable future,” Hinch said. “We weren’t anticipating good news out of that doctor’s visit, but he hasn’t had a full diagnosis yet. When the symptoms re-emerge, that’s a bad sign. We know that and he knows that.”
Hinch said Turnbull might seek the opinion of another specialist.
As for Boyd, he’s in Lakeland and still only throwing off flat ground.
“But he’s as confident as he’s been in his throwing program,” Hinch said. “I say that with caution because he hasn’t thrown off a mound yet. But his program is progressing nicely.”
Hinch expects Boyd to have a lengthy rehab process once his arm strength is built back up to where he can throw in games. While there is no definitive timetable yet, Hinch intimated that it could be into August before Boyd is back.
“It feels like forever from now but I know it’s not going to be,” he said. “I hope we can get a good solid week of throwing in and get him off the mound. But it’s critical not to have any setbacks. Setbacks now and we’re starting to think deep into the season.
“We are trying to avoid that.”
Around the horn
Robbie Grossman was out of the lineup Thursday with a jammed finger, which he sustained diving back into first base on Wednesday in Texas.
… Miguel Cabrera’s pinch-hit single Wednesday was the seventh pinch-hit of his career in 21 at-bats. It was his first pinch-hit since 2018.
Tigers at Twins
► First pitch: 8:10 p.m. Friday, Target Field, Minneapolis
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► RHP Matt Manning (1-2, 7.94), Tigers: The results were ugly but there were positive signs in his last outing against the White Sox. Namely, he reincorporated his slider into the mix, a tighter breaking ball to go along with his vertical-breaking curveball.
► RHP Kenta Maeda (4-3, 5.03), Twins: Entering Friday, he has thrown the exact same amount of innings he did last season (66.2) and he’s allowed 20 more runs, 30 more hits, 11 more walks with 16 fewer strikeouts. He’s coming off a beauty in his last start, though, blanking the Royals on two hits with 10 strikeouts over six innings.