Krol’s ‘revenge tour’ pulls into Tigers’ station

Detroit Tigers

Ian Krol was very clear about his intentions during Spring Training this year when he remarked, “I’m coming for everything they said I couldn’t have.”

It was quite a bold statement for a guy who had pitched only one game in the Majors since 2017, but Krol had the work ethic and the focus to back up every word. The Tigers doled out the ultimate reward for that never-give-up mentality on Wednesday, announcing they had purchased the reliever’s contract from Triple-A Toledo.

“He’s outpitched everybody down there,” manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday prior to Detroit’s series finale against the Rangers. “We had [Miguel] Del Pozo and [Alex] Lange and [Derek] Holland as the late options that we could have gone to, but it does feel good to reward Krol for the work he’s done this season.”

Krol, who signed a Minor League contract on Dec. 12, will provide both a lefty relief arm and depth in the bullpen.

The path back to the big leagues has been a long one for the 30-year-old, who has appeared in 225 Major League games but hasn’t pitched regularly in the Majors since 2017 with the Braves. Since then, he’s shuttled around among the farm systems of the Angels, Mets, Reds and Twins. He was suspended by MLB for 50 games in August 2019, and after the Minor League season was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Krol even found himself staying sharp as a late-innings star with the independent league team, Nerds Herd.

When the Tigers signed him prior to the 2021 season, Krol took to Twitter to share his excitement, ending a heartfelt note with, “Let the revenge tour start.”

“Just his life in baseball, his career path, he’s really grown up and matured as a person,” Hinch said. “He’s just persevered through a lot of things, both personally and professionally, for him to get it back at this level.

“He’s always had the ability to pitch at this level. He’s always had good stuff. His velocity has ticked up over the course of the last few months, breaking ball has always been a big weapon for him. But I think the mental perseverance has been one of the more impressive things that he’s brought to the table.”

Krol impressed the Tigers this spring but was a long shot to crack camp with the club. Undeterred, he headed to Toledo and strung together quite a season, working a 2-0 record and a 2.42 ERA in 17 appearances.

“He’s really pitched well [for the Mud Hens], specifically of late,” Hinch said. “And what a story for him to return to the big leagues after the journey he’s been on over the last few years.”

The promotion came on the heels of the news Detroit had optioned struggling reliever Bryan Garcia to Triple-A following the Tigers’ 10-5 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night. Krol was warming up in the bullpen in Omaha when Detroit called, and he happily traded one last Minors appearance for a red-eye flight, joining the big club soon afterward in Arlington.

While how long he’ll stick around is ultimately up to the club, Krol’s battle back to the big leagues was a long one filled with setbacks and disappointment, and history suggests he’s not the kind of guy to take a second chance for granted.

“I’m just proud of him,” Hinch said. “Because he’s had to do a lot of things and be humbled to what it’s going to take to get back to this level. And he’s done it. He’s pitched well, he’s pitched his way back here, and [we’re] looking forward to getting him back out on the field.”

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