After the TV cameras and microphones went off on Friday afternoon, I asked manager Trey Hillman about the Royals’ decision to keep Joakim Soria’s injury under cover.
“So you didn’t tell us because you didn’t want the other teams to know, basically?”
“Correct,” he responded and then asked to go off the record. Therefore I cannot tell you what he said.
Yet it’s interesting that he could have taken that opportunity to publicly further justify the decision, amplifying his on-record remarks about keeping Soria’s shoulder stiffness secret so the Royals’ opponents would not know he was unavailable to pitch. But he did not, in effect sticking his chin out and letting the critics take a punch if they wanted.
The Royals did not believe Soria’s stiffness was severe enough for him to go on the disabled list but they did not want the Rangers and then the Indians to know he might not be ready to pitch, thereby allowing the enemy to plan accordingly. So Hillman did not use Soria’s problem as a reason, for example, of going with Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth inning when he gave up the game-ending homer to Texas’ Michael Young. Or to explain why Soria had not pitched over a six-game, eight-day stretch.
Hillman was willing to take the bullets for hiding the injury because in doing so, he felt he was doing the best thing for the Royals. He played tricks with the truth, certainly, but I really can’t censure him for that. Why tip off the opposition that your premier closer is unavailable?
There is something wrong with Royals closer Joakim Soria after all.
Manager Trey Hillman said on Friday that Soria is expected to miss at least the next three to five days because of tightness behind his right shoulder.
“There is a problem but it’s not a DL situation,” Hillman said. “He doesn’t have any structural damage but he does have a tight right shoulder on the back side. We’re looking at a minimum of three to five days.”
Both Hillman and Soria insisted earlier this week that he was fine despite not appearing in a game for eight straight days. He returned on Wednesday night to post a save at Cleveland but apparently felt stiffness on Thursday.
General manager Dayton Moore said the stiffness came to the Royals’ attention last Saturday at Texas while he was warming up as a potential replacement for Zack Greinke who finished the game.
Hillman said he’d kept Soria’s situation under wraps until now to avoid tipping off opposing teams.
The closing role now will be handled by a “committee” until Soria returns, he said
— Dick Kaegel
Zack Greinke finally answered the call at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night by pitching six-plus shutout innings and ending his 0-6 career blight there. Royals 2, White Sox 0.
“My offspeed was working and I treated it like a playoff game almost,” Greinke said afterward.
Offspeed, full speed, it all worked for Greinke.
“This is just what me and Gil are supposed to do every time out, I think,” he said.
Gil Meche did all right in the opener with seven innings, leaving with a 2-1 lead that was lost. But, yeah, that’s what Gil and Zack are supposed to do.
And when Juan Cruz and Joakim Soria did what the bullpen is supposed to do, get nine straight outs, the Royals were 1-1 with only 160 games to go.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has trumpeted the Royals as a coming team for a couple of years now.
And here’s what he said after Wednesday night’s game: “They got stronger. I have said that for the last couple of years and this year I said that in Spring Training. This ballclub is going to compete and they are going to give a lot of people headaches. They have a good ballclub all around.”
That’s coming from the manager of the defending division champs.
So maybe it is time for the Royals to say, Hello Central, here we are.
When you think about it, the addition of Juan Cruz not only gives the Royals a stronger bullpen but it pretty much sews up who will be in it.
You start from the back end with closer Joakim Soria. Plug in Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay as the set-up types. You’ve got Doug Waechter and Robinson Tejeda as the middle men and Jimmy Gobble as the lefty specialist.
As manager Trey Hillman was saying the other day, Farnsworth, Mahay, Waechter, Tejeda and Gobble are the type of guys that can go two innings and maybe even Cruz. So you’ve got plenty of depth in case a starter goes bad in the fourth inning and needs a lot of help. Then you hope the starter the next day can get through six or seven to help stretch things out.
Of course, Hillman also mentioned such guys as Brandon Duckworth and Joel Peralta and Jamey Wright and Carlos Rosa et al because the skipper doesn’t want to throw cold water on anybody’s hopes. And he shouldn’t because, hey, anything can happen in the next month. Somebody could get hot, somebody could get stinky, somebody could get hurt.
In fact, John Bale already has been diverted to an uncertain status because of his thyroid surgery. There’s no telling if he might be ready by Opening Day but that’s probably a long shot. Which is why you can pretty much make a logical forecast on the bullpen seven even at this early juncture. Shapes up as pretty magnificent seven, too, doesn’t it?
— Dick Kaegel