In late May the Royals stripped Joakim Soria of closing duties after back-to-back blown saves, but he reclaimed the job a week later and has been his usual unhittable self since, throwing 12 scoreless innings with a 12/2 K/BB ratio and .098 opponents’ batting average.
Soria’s season totals are still below his lofty standards, but his ERA went from 6.55 to 4.24 during that 12-inning stretch and he’s also rediscovered his missing velocity. Soria’s average fastball has clocked in at 91.8 miles per hour this month, which is right in line with his 2009/2010 speeds and a sizable improvement over his 90.3 mph in April and May.
Soria gave the Royals a scare, but it looks like he’s back to being one of the elite relievers in baseball. Now the question is whether the last-place Royals will shop him at the trade deadline or keep him around to close out games as the farm system’s incredible collection of young talent flows to Kansas City during the next couple years.
Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.
The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.
The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.