For Ian Krol, curveball could be ticket back to Detroit Tigers
Clearwater, Florida – Ian Krol threw a curveball while playing for the Tigers in 2014 and 2015. But he didn’t throw that curveball, not the one he showed off in his three goalless, punch-free outings this spring that helped him pick up six punchouts that may get him into the Tigers’ pitching plans at some point this season become.
“He has an opportunity to show that he belongs back or near that level,” manager AJ Hinch said Tuesday after Krol’s last four outs in a 6-5 spring win over the Yankees. “If you come in and throw multi-pitch strikes, he can go home knowing he’s done his job and continues to make a good impression.”
Krol, who will turn 30 in May, spent last summer in a makeshift independent league after his career bottomed out in 2019, switching between the Reds and Twins Triple A partners. But it was precisely with the twins that he started tinkering with a curveball, which is possibly the tool that will make it easier for him to return to the big leagues.
He was a two-pitch pitcher – fastball, cutter – for most of his big-league career. But his pitching coach at Triple-A Rochester, Mike McCarthy, urged him to get a pitch with a more vertical break.
“I learned the analytics of my fastball and started to tunnel down parking spaces,” said Krol. “We played around with a few different moves. The one that felt the best, had the most spin and bite, was an ankle curve. “
By grasping the ball with a pointed index finger with the seams forming a horseshoe, Krol was able to generate around 2,800 rpm on the playing field. Such is the late and sharp fall action. Like the parade of locked knees and weak swings that it brings with it this spring.
“It wasn’t something that immediately occurred to me,” said Krol. “It was very difficult to learn. Muscle memory, when trying to get your fingers to grab a curveball and then grab a cutter from it, is difficult at times. “
He hasn’t had any major problems with it so far. He threw six curveballs (79 mph) and six cutters (87) from his 93 mph fastball against the Yankees. Granted, three of the four thugs he faced were left-handed, but he knocked out all three. Only one ball was put into play.
“I would say I’m confident in my things,” said Krol. “The stuff I’m putting out there now is definitely better than it has been in the past. But one game, one playing field at a time. I just have to agree to it. “
Krol, who is in the camp as a non-squad participant, also knows that apart from injuries, he is unlikely to break camp with the tigers. but that is not the point. What he’s doing this spring makes it a viable option for later in the season.
“You know what kind of mug I can be,” he said. “Hopefully I can eat a couple of innings for her on the street.”
Make no mistake, Krol has an unfinished business to take care of.
“I’m coming for everything you said I couldn’t have,” he said. “I feel like I want to get revenge for my performance when I’ve been here before. I want revenge for the kind of person I was here on and off the field. I just want to be a better, rounded person and try to help as much as possible. “
See new shapes
Tiger Reliever Joe Jimenez achieved a swing and miss rate of 48% with its sweeping slider last season. But the breaking ball he featured in his only scoreless inning against the Yankees on Tuesday had more vertical drop than sweep.
“A tick changed its breaking spherical shape,” said Hinch. “He can feel a difference to a ball that breaks a little more from top to bottom. I don’t care what he calls it. (Pitching coach Chris) Fetter talked about tweaking spin and throwing it for strikes.
“Being in command will be very important, especially when he raises his fastball. The down action of breaking balls is something they flirt with. “
His fastball hit a top speed of 95 mph on Tuesday, and he had a speed range between 79 and 84 mph on his slider.
On his drive from Lakeland to Clearwater on Wednesday, Hinch pondered how to position his defense against some of the Phillies’ left-handers, viz Bryce Harperand the idea of playing a four-man outfield popped up in his mind.
“Yeah, I’m still waiting for the first four-man outfield of spring,” said Hinch, who used four outfielders when he was in charge of the Astros. “I could do it today Harold ((Castro). It could be fun. “
It was more of a thought than a plan, but there is no doubt that we will see this unique alignment throughout the season.
To this end, both Castro and Niko Goodrum will soon start getting fieldwork. Hinch has already warned Goodrum that he will have a few outfield starts, including one in midfield, either Sunday or Monday at the Joker Marchant Stadium.
Soon after, Castro will also be working outdoors.
“Damn it, maybe Harold will see his action (today) in the left field,” said Hinch with an ironic smile. “Before I even give him work out there.”
Didn’t happen and it didn’t matter. Matthew Boyd hit Harper twice.
Around the horn
First baseman Renato Nunez spent Wednesday in Lakeland taking live hitting practice from reliefs Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser. Hinch said he came to camp in good shape, albeit late, and is expected to see his first game action on Friday.
… shortstop Zack short is not on the team as part of Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol requirements. Hinch couldn’t be more specific just to say that Short didn’t break any of the rules. Short had recovered from being hit in the helmet with a bad luck last week.
… outfield players Daz CameronAfter working his way back from an elbow injury, he practiced live in Lakeland on Wednesday. Hinch said Cameron could play his first game with the Bats of Spring on Friday and possibly start with a designated batsman on Saturday. He’s not free to play on the outfield yet.