Kansas City's Joakim Soria Closing Again, But Still Shaky

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 9: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals appeals to first base for a call in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium on June 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals defeated the Blue Jays 3-2. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

As mysteriously as Joakim Soria's struggles arrived and lingered, they seem to have disappeared.

Arguably one of the two or three best relief pitchers in the majors entering this season, Soria lost his job as Kansas City's closer after giving up three runs on May 30, earning his third loss and fifth blown save. At that point, Soria's ERA was 6.55; he'd entered the campaign with a 2.01 career mark.

He wasn't throwing quite as hard as usual, but more than anything he seemed to have lost the pinpoint control that had always made his low-90s fastball so much more effective than most. There were suggestions that maybe the hitters had finally figured him out ... But why would that happen in May 2011, rather than (say) June 2009 or August 2010?

Was Soria hurt? He said he wasn't. But when a pitcher with Soria's talents pitches as poorly as he pitched in April and May, you can't help wondering. Something certainly didn't seem right, and from the outside it looked like he'd lost his confidence, at least.

So the Royals demoted him. Rookie Aaron Crow took over as closer, or at least that was the plan; Crow hasn't actually gotten any save opportunities. Meanwhile, Soria seems to have found himself. In his first three outings after the demotion, Soria pitched five scoreless innings. Five scoreless hitless innings. Five scoreless hitless walkless innings.

If one wants to pick nits, one might point to Soria's single strikeout in those five innings. But given what came before, it's hard to complain about Soria's non-closer outings, and his track record certainly suggests that he deserves at least one more shot before handing the job to Crow for good.

Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays, Crow pitched a scoreless eighth -- though not without some troubles -- and Soria once again took the mound in the ninth. And while he ultimately earned his eighth save and preserved Luke Hochevar's first victory since the 1st of May, Soria once again struggled with his location, his fastball usually around the zone but his off-speed pitches just occasionally effective.

He might have pitched well enough to keep his job. But until further notice, it's best to assume he's week-to-week in his accustomed role. And with one more outing like this -- Soria gave up two singles and a walk -- it's going to become a psychological thing, for Soria's manager as much as for him.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.