Staff ace Zack Greinke voiced concerns back in August about the Royals’ current rebuilding strategy, telling the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton that he’s not “excited” about the club’s crop of youngsters “because the chance of more than one of them making a major impact” during the duration of his contract is “pretty slim.” Not all longtime Royals share Zack’s feelings.
Dutton spoke Thursday with All-Star closer Joakim Soria, who is perfectly content with his situation and pleased with the strides that the Royals have made in the draft and down on the farm.
“I’m still young,” Soria said, “and I think I’m a piece of what they want to do with this team. I think it’s a good idea to rebuild the team, and they’ve been doing great work with the minor-league system.”
Soria, 26, turned in a fantastic 1.78 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this past season while also converting 43 saves in 46 chances. He has major trade value as one of baseball’s top closers, but the Royals control him through 2014 and aren’t likely to part ways with the righty until they absolutely have to.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.