Entering the weekend, Kansas City closer Joakim Soria had allowed seven hits and four earned runs over 3.0 spring innings. Exiting the weekend, the numbers are a bit worse — 10 hits, seven runs, 3.1 innings — and the 27-year-old is dealing with pain in his pitching elbow. Not good.
Soria was lifted from an ugly 16-pitch appearance on Sunday, then offered these postgame comments to reporters:
"Oh, yeah, I'm worried," he admitted. "Since I've had my Tommy John surgery (in 2003), I've never had anything like that. I don't feel it's that bad because before the Tommy John surgery, all of my strength went away. This time, it hasn't."
"I threw a curveball to Choo (on the next-to-last pitch)," Soria said, "and I felt it real bad. The next pitch, I threw a fastball, and it was real bad."
So his current level of pain falls somewhere in the range between "real bad" and "immediate need for reconstructive surgery." It's tough to put an optimistic spin on this situation as we wait for additional details.
If Soria is sidelined for any length of time in the regular season — which seems probable, since opening day is less than three weeks away — the leading candidates for closing duties figure to be Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton. Holland is a 26-year-old righty coming off a dominant season (0.93 WHIP, 11.1 K/9), and he poached four saves over the final two months. He's having a terrific spring, too: 5.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 0 BB, 7 K.
Broxton was limited to just 14 appearances for the Dodgers in 2012 due to health issues, so he agreed to a one-year make-good deal with KC in November. He had surgery on his right elbow back in September (bone spurs), but he's looked OK in limited spring work: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 3 K, 96 mph heat. Aaron Crow is an option for the Royals as well, but he's not ahead of Holland in the bullpen hierarchy.
So, at the moment, if I could make just one speculative add, Holland would be the guy. He's clearly in the circle of trust for the Royals, health isn't a concern (as it is with Broxton), and he has vicious swing-and-miss stuff, including one of the game's most effective sliders. He's the sort of reliever who can help a roto squad whether he's closing or not, so he's a safe add with no obvious downside.