GARY | Will Krout had twice as many reasons to start his American Association preparation early.
Sure, he was headed into his second season as a RailCats starter, marking his second full season in a pro rotation.
He was also readying for a February alumni game at Santa Rosa Junior College.
So when RailCats manager Greg Tagert contacted Krout in January to check on his progress, the right hander was already reporting that he'd lost 20 pounds and was in the four-man rotation running routine.
"I was in the weight room, doing double days in the weight room, and I was running three and a half to five miles," Krout said. "Everything I was doing in the offseason I structured to come back here and be a in the four-man."
Krout was so prepared for RailCats spring training that it was easy for the coaching staff to send him out to the fifth inning of Thursday's 9-6 exhibition win over Evansville.
Krout threw 4 2/3 innings of three-hit ball before giving up a single, triple and double in the fifth inning to finish with six hits, two runs and three strikeouts. He tossed 61 pitches, 44 of which were strikes.
"Will's signature trademark is his pitch efficiency," Tagert said. "He can motor through seven innings in 80 pitches.
"His preparation was never in doubt. He could have thrown five innings on day one."
Krout said he changed his lifestyle over the offseason, cutting out "crap" food and working to slim down. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds on the roster, though he said he was down to 215 before adding the next 20 in muscle.
"I cut the crap out of my diet. There were circumstances off the field that gave me motivation," said Krout, who added that his newly single status gave him more time to devote to pitching. "I knew I'd be a starter again and I wanted to be mentally prepared to be a starter and have that set routine."
Krout left the game behind 2-1, but the RailCats added three runs in the seventh and another four in the ninth. Exhibition rules try to work all pitchers through a specific number of pitches, regardless of the score, so even after Aljay Davis hit a sac fly to score Drew Martinez as the winning run in the ninth, the game continued to allow Ryan Babineau to score Adam Klein and Josh Wettlaufer.
"What's been impressive about this camp is the emphasis the players are putting on the games," Tagert said. "I'm more accustomed to players creating situations to prepare for, like when Jay Pecci used to bunt to take his first bunt, that kind of thing, but these guys are very aware of the situation on the field and treat it like they're trying to win a ball game in the eighth or ninth inning."
The RailCats will play a semi-intrasquad game Friday before a two-day trip to St. Paul. The intrasquad game will be made up of Local Stars from the Michigan City area as well as players asked to return from last week's open tryout.