GARY | Releasing Will Krout on July 21 was one of the hardest decisions RailCats manager Greg Tagert made this season.
Krout was a leader in the clubhouse. He'd returned to the RailCats as a key to the rotation, a player designated to be a key to the team's success.
Then he acquired a hitch in his pitch.
He couldn't shake it, he couldn't define it, he — and the team — could only see the result. From May 28 to June 17, every game that Krout pitched in was a loss. He wasn't lasting a requisite seven innings in many games, he was pulled from his last start in Sioux Falls after only four innings.
When he was released, former RailCats coach Dennis Pelfrey found him an opening in Fort Worth. His problem was almost immediately solved.
"Three pitches into my first bullpen we fixed the problem," Krout said. "When I drive off of my back leg, I had a loose knee going, so I was buckling my back knee towards second instead of driving it home. What was happening was that when I was buckling, everything was standing up. When I was standing up I lose all velocity, all movement and location goes out the window. It's one of those things you can't feel because at the very end of the motion you're driving toward home plate.
"Then it was like, are you kidding me? It took three pitches?"
After that, every pitch was to find a way back into the American Association with a playoff-bound team. Hopefully the RailCats.
Tagert didn't consult a single coach before he made the decision to bring Krout back into the clubhouse. He didn't need to.
When the RailCats had the opportunity to bring Krout back, this time as a relief pitcher, the question was easy: "how quickly can you be in St. Paul?"
Tagert told no one. This was a surprise he was happy to keep in his pocket. Krout was already in the clubhouse when the team arrived in St. Paul to play a three-game series last weekend. In his first game, he pitched 1 2/3 innings, five batters, five outs that the RailCats couldn't have survived without.
"When we had to add a guy, for me familiarity is as important as anything and I knew what I was getting with Will Krout," Tagert said. "What's most important I was getting a guy who's going to compete at his highest level, whatever that may be, and was going to give everything we had and he understood the system we were in, understood the goals, understood the expectations and went out that first night, he flew in at 6 in the morning in St. Paul and met us as the ballpark and got five of the biggest outs of his career.
"He came in with the bases loaded and retired five consecutive guys and held St. Paul off the board in a 3-3 game. That's not going to be forgotten."
He hasn't allowed a run in four games back with the RailCats, all from the bullpen and all wins.
He's found his playoff squad, back where his team couldn't be happier to see him, and on a staff that needs his quick-working right arm.
His knee points forward now, exactly the direction the RailCats are going.