Soria upbeat, hopes to return to Royals
Closer scheduled to undergo second Tommy John surgery
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For a man facing serious surgery for a second time and great uncertainty over what has been a prosperous and successful career, Joakim Soria seemed upbeat on Saturday.
Soria, the Royals' closer for the last five years, met with Kansas City media in the clubhouse to say more about undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, aka Tommy John surgery, on April 3 in Los Angeles. Fresh from a shower, he wore a raspberry shirt and blue jeans and occasionally a smile broke out under his close-cropped black hair.
"It's part of the life, it's part of The Show," Soria said. "It can happen to anyone but you just have to be strong. God has his own purpose for us and I'm just following his orders."
A partially torn ulnar collateral ligament was found in his pitching elbow after his right arm began hurting during a Spring Training game last Sunday. The Royals announced on Friday that he'd undergo surgery by Dr. Lewis Yocum at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in LA.
"There's not a complete tear, but it's more than 50 percent so the doctors say the best chance to get back is to have the surgery," Soria said. "It was tough for me because it's the second one but my wife and all my family is behind me and supporting me. That's why I made the choice to have the surgery."
His first surgery, under a team directed by the originator of the Tommy John method, Dr. Frank Jobe, caused Soria to miss the 2003 season and most of 2004, but by 2005 he was pitching with success in the Mexican League. Taken in the 2006 Rule 5 draft by the Royals, he emerged as an effective closer as a rookie in 2007. Now he'll be undergoing surgery at the clinic that bears Jobe's name.
"He did a really good surgery and it worked for eight years and now I expect to have the surgery and have another eight years or more," Soria said.
Soria was unsure about his chances for coming back after a second Tommy John procedure in which a tendon from his left arm will be inserted in his right elbow.
"They don't have a study of guys that have had two Tommy John surgeries at my age  so it's tough to say a number," he said. "This surgery has been practiced for I think like 30 years or so and there haven't been too many cases of guys my age having the second surgery."
Left-hander Chris Capuano, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a somewhat similar track record. He underwent his second surgery at age 29 in May 2008, about six years after the first. He missed all of 2008 and most of 2009 before getting back to the Majors in 2010 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last year he was a rotation regular for the New York Mets.
Soria says he hasn't been given a timetable for his return.
"We'll just go day-by-day and see how it feels," he said. "It just depends on me, my body and how my arm takes it."
However, if Soria, like Capuano, would face the possibility of missing two Major League seasons, the Royals will have a decision to make about picking up his contract options for 2013 ($8 million) and 2014 ($8.75 million). He's guaranteed $6 million for this season because the club exercised its option for 2012.
"I hope I stay here in Kansas City. I love this organization, I feel part of this family and I appreciate what they've done for me," he said.
Soria feels that his dedicated work ethic will help him return to pitching as quickly as possible.
"I believe that rehabbing is 90 percent of the success of the surgery and I'm going to work hard every day, like I always do, and just try to get back as soon as I can," he said.
Naturally, while Soria will be around the Royals this year as he rehabs from his surgery, he'll miss being part of the action.
"It's going to be hard, sitting there and watching these guys play. I'm going to support them and root for my team but it's really hard for me," he said. "The hard part is going to be seeing these guys make the playoffs and World Series this year and I'm not going to be there. So I'll really pull for them and hope they can make it."
Soria was philosophical about his situation.
"I can't change anything," Soria said. "God knows what he has for me. He's got a perfect plan for us and if his plan is this, I'm going to take it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.