05/01/08 2:20 PM ET
Soria off to sizzling start to season
Royals closer nearly perfect through 11 appearances
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Parents Jose Manuel and Jovita, aunt Marisol and wife Karla were in town from Mexico for the series against the Rangers. And, of course, so was Milli, the Chihuahua.
"My wife loves Chihuahuas. We've got two -- one in Mexico and one here," Soria said.
Camilo, the boy side of the doggy duo, stays at home in Monclova with his parents. Milli travels around with Karla when she leaves Kansas City.
Joakim, meantime, keeps a leash on batters all around the American League. He's been downright perfect, going into Thursday's game against the Rangers at least.
His numbers were pristine: no runs and just three hits in 11 games, 11 innings and 11 games finished. He had walked just one batter. He had six saves in six opportunities.
"I just try to keep the momentum going, and I try to do my best any time they need me," Soria said.
Soria said he's the same pitcher with the same pitches he showed last year when, as a Rule 5 Draft pick surprise, he pocketed 17 saves and worked relief in 62 games. His ERA was a superb 2.48.
"Same person, same all," he said.
This sameness is enjoyable for Royals pitching coach Bob McClure. What he sees is that batters have trouble seeing the ball come out of Soria's right hand.
"It's hard for them to pick up the ball. It seems like he's going to let it go later than he lets it go. And it's on 'em," McClure said. "You'll see a lot of guys take so many strikes with him and a lot of guys swinging through balls. It's just a gift."
Royals slugger Jose Guillen saw, or didn't see, that last year when he was with the Mariners.
"He just hides it. I don't know how," Guillen said. "I wish I knew when I was hitting against him."
Soria, called "Agus" by his family and "Jack" by some teammates, has more than his deception and movement on his fastball. He also throws a slider, a curveball and a changeup.
"He uses the slider and the change on the middle counts sometimes, although he threw a 3-2 changeup for the third out [Tuesday night] when [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia threw the bat about 30 rows up into the stands," McClure said. "That was a 3-2 changeup. He'd thrown him three or four fastballs that he fouled off."
Soria, just 23 and in only his second season, already has drawn some comparisons to the Yankees' premier closer, Mariano Rivera.
"It's nice for them to say that," Soria said, without taking it seriously.
"It's too soon to say that. ... I don't really care about that," he added. "I just try to keep things my way. It's hard for any player to be compared with someone like that."
Anyway, who knows? Soria's future might not be in the bullpen.
"Jack is happy with what he's doing now, but he's always got to be in the picture, at his age, of possibly starting at some point, some year," McClure said.
"Not this year, but you've always got to look at it -- a guy with that kind of command and his pitches -- because you just don't know. He was a starter before he went to the 'pen. Right now, we're very happy with where he's at and what he does."
Obviously, so is Soria.
"I like my game, I like baseball and I enjoy it every time I go on the mound," he said. "I have fun, no matter what."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.