Robert Ford came to 610 Sports Radio in 2009 as the station’s “Royals Insider.” He currently serves as the pre and post game show host for Royals Broadcasts on 610. The Syracuse graduate has been around professional baseball as a reporter and broadcaster for over a decade.
Royals Spring Training Report for Sun, 3/18
by Robert Ford,posted Mar 18 2012 7:52PM
Royals closer Joakim Soria hasn’t looked sharp all spring. His first appearance came in a B game and he’s pitched three times in regular spring training games; in all of those outings, he’s thrown strikes, but has struggled with his command within the strike zone, allowing more than three times as many hits as innings pitched. It’s not uncommon for veteran pitchers to post poor numbers during spring training; they have nothing to prove in the spring and are trying to get ready for the season. However, Soria’s spring struggles come after a 2011 that, for him, was subpar. Soria doesn’t have overpowering stuff or a dominant out pitch he can throw in any count, so he relies on command and control more than the majority of successful closers. Today against the Indians in Surprise, Soria looked like he has in his other spring outings, allowing hits to three of the five batters he faced. Then, manager Ned Yost and the trainer paid Soria a mound visit, removing him with what the Royals later said was elbow soreness; Soria will be reevaluated in a couple of days.
Modern-day bullpens are built backward, from the closer on out, and having instability at the closer’s spot can be a recipe for disaster. If Soria has to miss significant time, the Royals may be able to weather the absence of their closer better than most. For one, they have Jonathan Broxton, who’s been a successful closer in the past. Also, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland seem to have both a closers’ stuff and mentality and could fill that role as well. And, the Royals have a surplus of excellent bullpen arms and there are plenty of options for setup roles as well as closer. The key for the Royals if Soria isn’t the closer is for Yost to pick a closer immediately and to stick with him, even through a rough patch or two. The closer by committee approach never works and the best bullpens always have defined roles for all their relievers.
Clearly, if Soria misses a significant amount of time, that would be bad news for the Royals. But, their bullpen depth would help cushion them from that possible blow.