Spotlight appropriately shining on Soria
Royals' closer enjoys attention while wielding perfect ERA
KANSAS CITY -- Joakim Soria was hemmed in by TV cameras, microphones and notebooks -- not to mention the folks wielding them -- in the Royals' clubhouse before batting practice on Wednesday.
Increasingly, Soria finds himself in the media spotlight. That's the result of having 10 saves in 10 chances and a 0.00 ERA in the first 1 1/2 months of the season.
RADIO GUY: "It seems like the mental aspect of closing is as important as the physical part. Have you always had that?"
SORIA: "Well, I'm just working on my body and my stuff, and trying to be a good pitcher."
RADIO GUY: "A lot of people talk about whether you would be better as a starter or a closer on this team. What do you think?"
SORIA: "Well, we don't know yet. I've never started in the Major Leagues, you know. If they need me as a starter, I'll be a starter. If they need me as a closer, I enjoy being a closer."
And so it goes for Soria. He's made a TV spot for MLB.com promoting losroyals.com, the club's new Spanish-language site. He was fielding interviews for radio stations and newspapers from his native Mexico. In Kansas City, he's being recognized as the best closer since the Jeff Montgomery era ended in 1999.
He's becoming a media darling.
"Well, it's nice," he said with a smile. "It means I've been good."
Soria recognizes the value of relating with reporters on a broad scale.
"It's good for me and for my career that you guys come to me and give me questions and I answer them," he said. "I love KC, and it's good for us."
When Soria closed out the Tigers on Wednesday night, he pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the 11th time in 17 games. He has 18 strikeouts and just one walk in 16 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting just .075 against him. In one streak he retired 24 straight batters.
His only flawed appearance came last Thursday when two hit batters and a single gave the Orioles a bases-loaded chance. Manager Trey Hillman brought in Joel Peralta, who doused the fire for his bullpen buddy.
Hillman likes the cool, calm, confident demeanor Soria brings to the mound.
"I'd rather have that temperament than the song coming on, 'Wild Thing,' " Hillman said. "I don't want body parts flying all over the place with our closer."
It's become fashionable to compare Soria with the Yankees' premier closer, Mariano Rivera.
"I think that's a good reference although it's awful early in Soria's career to put that pressure and that tag on him," Hillman said. "But he does have the same temperament and the same type of demeanor and that's important."
Whether it's hitters or reporters, bring 'em on. Soria is ready.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.