The term “jack of all trades” is typically a term of endearment. It describes a person who can do anything anyone needs them to do within a certain context. Reliability and versatility are trademarks of this type of person.
However, this term becomes less endearing when joined with another cultural cliché: “master of none.” This means that while an individual can be used in a multitude of situations, he is not elite anywhere.
After being a pitching jack-of-all-trades a year ago, Clemson’s Pat Krall wants to master one role in 2017: weekend starter.
“From day one in the fall, we tried to develop him as a starter,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We fully intend to give him that opportunity to start. He deserves that.”
Krall returns as the Tigers’ top pitcher after filling a number of roles a year ago. He led the team with 29 appearances, five saves, a 1.67 earned run average, ten wins, and had one of the program’s two complete games. Those stats indicate dominance in all aspects of the craft.
The 6’6” senior left-hander also never knew exactly what his role would be. He could be needed for the final inning. He might fill a long relief role if a starter was yanked early. When Clemson’s rotation became more of a day-to-day operation late in the season, Krall was called upon to start three times.
He says he relishes the ability to go into any game at any time, but he also knows more rigidity can help his teammates feel more comfortable.
“Last year, we had a lot of ‘TBD’ days on Sundays,” Krall said. “I think it kind of irritated a couple of the guys that were in that role.”
Krall turned down an opportunity to become a professional after last season. Part of that conversation with the staff was a promise to give him every opportunity to be a consistent member of the weekend rotation.
It seems, however, that neither Krall nor his coaches is fully committed to keeping Krall in that role over the long haul. Krall says he enjoys being available at other times and might like to throw some relief innings as necessary during midweek games.
His pitching coach, Andrew See, says the desire to utilize Krall late in games may pop up again when coaches have to make decisions in the moment. He also thinks it is important to give Krall a fair shot in his new role.
“I don’t think you know until you get there,” See said. “That’s probably my biggest concern getting to this point.”
“As the season progresses, hopefully Pat can stay in our starting rotation because he’s pitching so well and the guys that are pitching in the bullpen are doing their job,” Lee said.
Krall says he learned to love closing games last year. Even in a blowout win over Florida State to clinch the ACC Championship, he lobbied Lee to let him finish the game on the mound. He says that role will be in good hands, whether he fills it or someone else does.
“I love being the guy that can close it out for us,” Krall said. “Even if I can’t do that this year because I’m only pitching one game a week, I’ve been talking to other guys who love that, as well. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are hungry to get that last out.”
The reason Krall can speak with such confidence is his ascension into a leadership role. He is one of six players on Lee’s leadership council, which both Lee and See have credited with establishing a greater sense of internal accountability among the rank and file.
See says Krall now has “street cred” among his teammates. Even though he says he never imagined he would be in this spot, Krall has made sure his presence has value within Clemson’s locker room.
“He’s got the All-American title,” See said. “He’s been drafted. He came back. He loves this place. He’s our hardest worker.”
“It’s something I love,” Krall said of his leadership role. “Looking at these guys, maybe when we leave, they’ll be the same kind of leaders we are—being able to leave a kind of legacy, in a way.”
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