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Jorge Soler is in The Best Shape of His Life

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Remember, one does not have to utter the actual words “I’m in the best shape of my life” for it to be a Best Shape of His Life article! The real requirements are (a) a guy coming off a bad or disappointing year; (b) a reference to a new diet/exercise regimen/training routine; and (c) the promise, implicit or explicit, that this season will be better.

The magic words don’t really matter. The essence of these things is the spin and expectation-building that simultaneously explains away a poor season and hints at a better one. Usually through conditioning, but often with a side of changing one’s swing or learning to throw a cutter or what have you.

Today’s BSOHL: Jorge Soler, who disappointed in Kansas City in 2017 after being traded for all-world closer Wade Davis. But never fear, Royals fans, a new diet, a re-tooled swing and a bunch of time in the cage is gonna set that straight:

This backyard in suburban Miami is where Soler has done some soul searching and reset his approach, both mentally and physically. Where he has retooled his swing, learned to stay back on his load leg and improved his timing.

This is not the Jorge Soler the Royals last saw in September. This is a version of Soler cultivated through a longer-than-normal offseason training schedule, one who put a halt to months worth of sulking so he could try to become the power bat the Royals thought they acquired from the Cubs in the December 2016 trade of closer Wade Davis . . . This is the version of Soler who, 20 pounds lighter thanks to an improved diet, is finally ready for a second chance.

My favorite part of these sorts of stories is how they, invariably, take place in some off-the-beaten track workout facility, like this suburban backyard. Which means that, no, the reporter did not just stumble upon the player working out at the team’s training complex and note that, hey, this guy is working hard this offseason. It means, I presume, that the player’s agent or someone close to him tipped folks that his guy is off training like Rocky in Siberia before the Ivan Drago fight and, hey, maybe you should come talk to him about it.

Good luck, Jorge. Our periodic analysis of these stories over the past several years has revealed that BSOHL guys are just as likely to have a better season in front of them as a worse or unchanged season — there’s no pattern at all, actually — so maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.