Nationals' Lefty Ian Krol: In Or Out Of Nats' 2014 Bullpen?

Patrick McDermott

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters recently that the bullpen was one area the team will look to address this winter. Where does 22-year-old Ian Krol fit in the 2014 bullpen? Will Krol start the year in the majors or is he Syracuse bound next March...

Ian Krol, a 2009 7th Round pick out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, was the Oakland A's 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a strong second season in the Athletics' system. The then-19-year-old lefty was (9-4) with a 2.65 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, 19 walks (1.44 BB/9) and 91 Ks (6.90 K/9) in 24 games, 23 starts and 118 2/3 IP for the Low-A Kane County Cougars and (1-0) with a 3.66 ERA, 4.67 FIP, nine walks (4.12 BB/9) and 20 Ks (9.15 K/9) in four starts and 19 2/3 IP for the High-A Stockton Ports.

"I don't think he knows what he wants to do. He just relies on the catcher. He's got a good arm. He's got good stuff. He'll put it all together." - Davey Johnson on Ian Krol

Three years later, Krol was the PTBNL included in the three-team trade with the A's, Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals last March that brought the left-hander into the Nats organization. Krol started the 2013 season at Double-A Harrisburg, where he had a 0.69 ERA, 2.51 FIP, seven walks (2.42 BB/9) and 29 Ks (10.04 K/9) in 21 games and 26 IP before he was called up to the majors as part of the Nationals' bullpen shakeup in June.

"'Ian Krol in Double-A has really shown that he has good stuff and the mental makeup to throw the ball over the plate,'" Rizzo told reporters including the Washington Post's James Wagner at the time, "'and good stuff and the ability to get out both right-handers and left-handers made him a real interesting option for us.'" Krol's major league career started with a month of June in which he had a 1.54 ERA, one walk and 13 Ks in 11 2/3 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .125/.146/.250 line.

In 17 appearances between the start of July and August 21st when he was optioned to Triple-A, however, Krol had a 4.73 ERA with six walks and seven Ks in 13 1/3 IP in which opponents had a .327/.390/.577 line. The Nationals sent Krol out to make room for Ross Ohlendorf, but Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said the lefty would be back. "He's got a great future," Johnson said. "He's going to be back in ten days when we expand rosters. I hate to [lose] him because he's still learning up here, but he's got a heck of a future."

Krol walked one and struck out seven in 3 2/3 IP while he was at Triple-A Syracuse, and he struggled in the 2 1/3 innings he pitched in September after he was called back up.

After Krol gave up two hits and a run without retiring a batter in mid-September game with the Phillies, in what ended up being his next-to-last appearance of the year, Davey Johnson told reporters that the 22-year-old lefty was still learning at the major league level. "He's still young," Johnson said, "I don't think he knows what he wants to do. He just relies on the catcher. He's got a good arm. He's got good stuff. He'll put it all together."

Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said the bench and bullpen are two of the areas the Nationals will look to improve this winter. Will Krol be trying to put it all together at Triple-A next year or do you think he will be a part of Washington's bullpen on Opening Day in 2014? Krol, Fernando Abad, Xavier Cedeno? Can the Nats get J.P. Howell to come to the nation's capital this winter? Are they willing to take on another Tommy John case in Braves' lefty Eric O'Flaherty? Or do the Nats have enough lefties in-house?

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