The 2012 season has been an intriguing one for Ian Krol. After essentially missing the entire 2011 season thanks to an arm injury and a suspension, Krol has had a healthy and controversy-free season. To date, Krol had spent the entire season with High-A Stockton, but on Tuesday evening he was promoted to Double-A Midland for the first time in his young career.
Even before he received the news that he was headed to Texas, Krol was appreciative of the support he has received from the A's since they drafted him in the seventh round in 2009.
"[The organization] has been treating me great," Krol said.
"They've given me nothing but opportunities. I love this organization and the guys in this organization. We've got a tight bunch here [in Stockton] and I love the way they've taken care of my arm, because I was hurt all [last] year, with the innings limit. It's a great place to play and be in around a lot of good coaching."
Krol arrived in the A's organization with a higher profile than most seventh-round picks. A Naperville, Illinois, native, Krol was a highly regarded high school pitching prospect with Neuqua Valley HS after he struck-out 91 in 70 innings as a sophomore and then an astonishing 111 in 57 innings pitched as a junior. He also threw three no-hitters that season, one of which was a perfect game.
Going into the 2009 season, he was considered by many to be a top-three round prospect. However, he was suspended for his senior season when he was found in the presence of alcohol when a car he was riding in was pulled over. The suspension impacted his draft status and he fell to Oakland in round seven. The A's went over-slot to sign Krol away from a scholarship to the University of Arizona, signing him for $925,000.
In 2010, Krol got the opportunity to pitch in front of friends and family as a member of the Kane County Cougars' starting rotation. In 118.2 innings, Krol dazzled, striking out 91 while walking a mere 19 (4.79 K/BB, 1.44 BB/9, 6.90 K/9) en route to being honored as a Midwest League mid- and post-season All-Star. This performance proved to be sufficient enough to grant Krol with a promotion to Stockton at the tail-end of the 2010 season.
Krol was ticketed to start the 2011 season with the Ports, but a left forearm injury during spring training left him back in Arizona when camp broke. He would throw five innings for the AZL A's as part of his rehab and was set to join the Ports when he was suspended for the rest of the season by the organization for making an inappropriate comment on Twitter.
The southpaw was quick to put his lost 2011 season behind him when he rejoined the Ports at the start of the 2012 campaign and he has been focused on tackling the challenge of the hitter-friendly California League.
"It's just good to be back, to be honest with you." Krol said last week while with Stockton.
"Missing a full year was pretty hard mentally and physically. I was here for a month in 2010 so I knew what to expect, that you're going to give up homers that normally wouldn't go out in other parks. You've just got to take it as it goes and can't be too hard on yourself. But other than that it's just great to be back, to be healthy and it's good to be back for a full year."
Krol got off to a slow start this season, posting a 6.91 ERA in the month of April. However, the 21-year-old would improve as the season went on. In 86.1 innings for Stockton, Krol compiled a 79:24 K/BB ratio.
The lefty credits his improvement in the Cal League to the development of his changeup.
"The best pitch I've learned to throw in this league in different counts and to different batters would be my changeup," Krol said.
"The change works really well in the Cal League to get batters off their timing, getting their bat in front and maybe rolling it over and not hitting it up in the air so much. That's the main pitch I've learned to command so well in this league. The key to this league is to throw the changeup."
As Krol approached his innings limit for 2012, the A's moved him from the rotation to the bullpen. In 12.2 innings as a reliever, he has posted a 2.84 ERA with a 17/4 K/BB ratio. Krol has had a different mindset as a reliever.
"It's just a different mentality," Krol said.
"At first I didn't like going to the bullpen, but now that I'm here I just take it as it is and keep plugging away. As a starter, I'd have more of a routine and do the same things that I have and there's more of a set schedule. In the bullpen, it's just whenever they need you to pitch you go in there with a mindset that no one's going to get on-base, you'll shut down the inning and keep the score close. But I've liked it so far. It's treated me well and I've had success."
While Krol is expected to spend the rest of this season in the bullpen, he should return to the starting rotation next year. He is most likely to begin next season where he ends this year, in Texas with the Midland Rockhounds.
With a month left in the season, Krol has simple goals.
"My goals for the remainder of this season are… just to keep having success out of the bullpen for myself and to stay healthy as always," Krol said.
"This offseason I just plan to get stronger, better and build my stamina up and look forward to next season."