Tonight marks the first night of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and while this is one of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo’s favorite days of the year, he’ll have to wait a little while to get in on the drafting action tonight.
The Nationals forfeited their first-round pick in this year’s draft by signing free agent closer Rafael Soriano this offseason after Soriano had been given a qualifying offer by the Yankees. That means that the Nats won’t get to make their first selection in the draft until they’re put on the clock for their second-round selection, which will be at No. 68 overall.
A few players of note who have been taken at No. 68 overall include Tigers lefty Drew Smyly in 2010, Angels lefty Jason Vargas in 2004 and Red Sox righty John Lackey in 1999.
Rounds 3-10 of the draft will take place on Friday, and Rounds 11-40 will be Saturday.
Ian Krol was taken in the seventh round of the 2009 draft by the Athletics out of Neuqua Valley High School in Illinois, and the now-22-year-old made his big league debut last night for the Nats, coming in and working a scoreless sixth inning that included strikeouts of Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Lucas Duda.
The last few days have been a bit of a blur for the young left-hander, who got called up from Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday, stepped into a big league clubhouse for the first time that afternoon and then was on the mound at Nats Park in front of more than 30,000 fans last night.
Krol’s parents had been in Harrisburg to see him over the weekend, and had just gotten back to their home in Chicago when they got word from their son that they’d need to book another trip. This flight was headed to D.C. to witness him in a big league uniform for the first time.
“My dad, he rides his bike every morning,” Krol said yesterday afternoon. “He passed a guy with D.C. Washington on his hat the day I got called up. He was like, ‘That’s got to be a sign.’ He went home and all the stuff he threw in the laundry from the road trip (to Harrisburg), he threw back in the suitcase. It was cool.”
Krol went to the dry cleaners the day he got called up and asked if they could have his clothes ready for him in an hour. He then made the drive from Harrisburg down to D.C. with two 80-pound bags, ready for whatever was to come next.
“Everything’s been go, go, go,” Krol said with a smile. “My mom told me to stop and look around once in a while (and enjoy it).”
Nothing can match the thrill of getting called up to the big leagues, but Krol got to be a part of a cool moment back on May 9 when he finished off a no-hitter for the Senators, a game which was started by Paul Demny. Demny went eight innings, but was pulled because of a high pitch count, and Krol was called upon to finish off the no-no.
“It was crazy. It was awesome,” he said. “My first (time) witnessing a no-hitter in the minor leagues. It was awesome to finish it off. I fanned two guys and a ground ball.”
Krol, a former starter, showed Nats fans what he brings to the table last night. The southpaw throws in the mid-90s with a nice, hard curveball and a changeup that he mostly uses as a complementary pitch to get ahead in the count or slow down the bat of a hitter who is taking big cuts. The move to the bullpen has worked well for Krol, allowing him to key in on the few batters that lie ahead of him.
“Instead of focusing on six innings, I’ve been able to throw one inning and just focus on the game,” Krol said. “Execute my pitches well, keep the ball down and throw strikes, pound the zone. Haven’t been walking too many guys, which helps, too.”
Krol, who was the A’s minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2010, said he wasn’t really surprised to be included in this offseason’s three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Mariners, Jon Jaso to the A’s and A.J. Cole and Krol to the Nats. He didn’t take too much time thinking about what it meant for his future or his chances of getting to the big leagues. He just put his head down and kept working.
“I just took it and ran with it,” Krol said. “We’re all pawns on a chessboard. We get moved around wherever we need to go and we do our job. It was just an easy transition, really. Everybody here is so nice.”
If Krol keeps throwing like he did last night, people in the area should be nice to him for quite a while.