Krol, Davis, Leon discuss their return to the majors

None of the Nationals’ first three September call-ups are new faces. We’ve seen left-hander Ian Krol, right-hander Erik Davis and catcher Sandy Leon up with the Nats before.

That doesn’t mean those three guys aren’t thrilled to be back in the big leagues.

Krol was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse just 11 days ago after a rough stretch with the Nats, but he quickly finds himself back at Nationals Park. And the call-up couldn’t have come soon enough.

“Seems like a month (ago),” Krol said with a laugh. “Seems like a long time, but I worked on some stuff down there. I got in a couple games and faced a lot of lefties. Take some positives out of it.”

Krol made some mechanical adjustments while with Syracuse - he previously hadn’t been getting full extension on his pitches, leading to some soreness in his lat area - but he also was working on a few strategic adjustments, as well. Getting ahead of hitters was a particular focus, as was throwing curveballs in the dirt when Krol was ahead in counts.

“I was trying to bury the ball in the dirt instead of maybe trying to backdoor or just throwing a spinner up there and letting them hit it,” Krol said. “(In) 1-2, 0-2 counts, it’s in the pitcher’s favor, so you want to be able to execute your pitch.”

Krol only appeared in five games with the Chiefs, but those outings were also important when it came to allowing him to build up some confidence. After starting really strong with the Nats, posting a 2.00 ERA with 16 strikeouts to three walks in his first 18 innings, Krol then posted a 6.43 ERA over his next seven innings, with four strikeouts, four walks and three homers allowed.

“I got a lot of swing and misses down there, and I wasn’t getting that up here with my fastball,” Krol said. “Guys were just kind of spitting on it if I was trying to hit the inside part of the plate or whatever. Down there, definitely builds your confidence when you see a guy swing through your pitch and you make a good pitch. Plus the positives I took out of it was I had pretty good outings down there. So that was definitely a confidence boost.”

Through the vast majority of his 10-week stretch with the Nationals, Krol proved to be a dependable, potent left-handed weapon out of the bullpen. He wants to use this final month to reinforce that he’s that guy.

“I want to finish strong,” Krol said. “I want to get everything I can out of the guys I play with. Learn a whole bunch. I’ve learned so much since I’ve been up here. Being around guys that have been doing it for three, four years helps so much more. So I definitely want to finish strong, want to take whatever happens up here in the next month and bring it into the offseason, think about it and work on some things.”

Both Krol and Davis are a little worn out today; they had to drive back to Syracuse from Pawtucket after a game against the PawSox last night, pack up their things and then take a flight to D.C. today.

Davis has now been up with the Nats three times this season, having posted a 6.23 ERA in five big league appearances to this point. The right-hander, who many have compared to Tyler Clippard due to the goggles and changeup that both men possess, has served a number of roles down at Syracuse this season, but lately, he was used as a closer and in late-inning relief.

He finishes his season at Triple-A with a 3-7 record, 3.10 ERA and 15 saves.

“You know, I guess you could say it’s been successful, the fact that I’ve gotten here a few times,” Davis said. “But every person’s goal is to stay here. So while I have achieved some sort of success getting here, I haven’t gotten nearly to the point where I’ve been able to stay here. Hopefully this month I can just continue to refine my approach and hopefully put myself in a good spot for next year.

“I think more than anything this is an opportunity to, you know, this team’s still in the playoff hunt. Whether my job is to eat up innings, save the guys’ arms that are up here, that’s my job. Or whatever they ask me to do, it’s to go out there and put up a zero, more than anything. That’s what I’m going to try to do. Soak up as much from all the other guys who have been doing it much longer than I have.”

This is Leon’s first time up with the Nats this season, but he hit .267 (8-for-30) with two doubles and two RBIs in 12 big league games last year. The 2013 season has been a rough one offensively for Leon, as he hit just .177/.291/.252 at Double-A Harrisburg, but he provided a dependable presence behind the plate for the playoff-bound Senators.

“I’ve been struggling with my hitting, but my defense has been good,” Leon said. “In making the playoffs, our pitching has been really good but my hitting has been really struggling. Hopefully we can make it better here. The whole year was a long year for me with my hitting but my defense is there so I’m happy with that.

“I think (I’ve been) too aggressive, sometimes too aggressive at pitches, and you’ve got to be smart, too. So I think just to calm down in the game and just relax and see what happens. All year I’ve been struggling all year so I’m feeling better here.”

Leon was a little disappointed to leave the Senators behind as they embark on their playoff push, but he’ll gladly take the promotion to the big leagues, even if he’s unlikely to get much playing time behind Wilson Ramos and Jhonatan Solano. He’ll work with hitting coach Rick Schu, try and get back on track offensively in the cages and soak up as much information as he can.

“You play to get to the big leagues,” Leon said. “It feels good because when you start a season, you play for the playoffs and when that happens it makes you really happy. But I’m happy now.”

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