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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.

Joe Kelly’s suspension reduced to 5 games on appeal

Joe Kelly suspended eight
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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly had his suspension for throwing pitches near the heads of Houston hitters reduced to five games on appeal.

Kelly was originally penalized eight games by Major League Baseball on July 29, a day after throwing a 96 mph fastball near the head of Houston’s Alex Bregman and two curveballs that brushed back Carlos Correa.

The Dodgers on Wednesday confirmed the reduced penalty.

Kelly went on the 10-day injured list retroactive to last Sunday with right shoulder inflammation. He will serve his suspension when he returns.

After striking out Corea, Kelly curled his lip into a pouting expression and exchanged words with the shortstop.

Benches cleared after Kelly’s actions during the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 5-2 win at Houston in the teams’ first meeting since it was revealed the Astros stole signs en route to a 2017 World Series title over the Dodgers.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts served his one-game suspension the same day the penalty was handed down. Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount.

Kelly denied that he purposely threw at the Astros. He has previously been suspended in his career for throwing at a batter.

The penalties were imposed by former pitcher Chris Young, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, who issued his first ruling since taking over the job from Joe Torre.