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Joakim Soria’s injury a dark cloud over Royals

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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This isn't the way the bright future was supposed to dawn in Kansas City.

First, young catcher Salvador Perez tears some cartilage in his left knee, landing himself  on the disabled list for what's expected to be at least three months.

Then All-Star closer Joakim Soria starts feeling pain in his right elbow and an exam reveals "definite damage" to his ulnar collateral ligament. He'll head to Los Angeles Tuesday for a confirmation from Dr. Lewis Yocum, an elbow specialist whose name has become ominously synonymous with Dr. James Andrews.

Seeing as how the term of the day at Royals camp could quickly become "Tommy John surgery,"  would you blame the Royals if they wrapped the rest of their burgeoning stars in bubble wrap and sent them back to Kansas City to wait for opening day? (More importantly, what does the CBA say about shipping players via UPS ground? Is that even allowed?)

From my viewpoint, though, the awful injury to Soria is a lot more heartbreaking than any dashed dreams of the Royals somehow being a surprise contender in the AL Central. If Soria does have to go under the knife for Tommy John, it'll be for the second time in his career (he previously had the procedure done in 2007). As Matthew Hays of SB Nation notes, the list of pitchers who have been productive after a second Tommy John surgery is woefully short. So not only might the Royals lose Soria's services for 2011, they might never see him pitch in a Kansas City uniform again. And considering they have two more option years left on him at a relatively affordable rate — $8  million in 2013 and $8.75 million — that's a big blow to building a consistent bullpen for a contender.

As Royals Review writes, Ned Yost still has some options when it comes to closers. The team surely must have had a contingency plan in mind when it signed Jonathan Broxton to a one-year, but Greg Holland is also an option after posting a 1.80 ERA over 60 innings in 2011. (Also an option: The two-headed Tim Collins-Everett Teaford beast.)

Whatever the case, it looks like GM Dayton Moore is being put in a position to do his best Andrew Friedman impersonation when it comes to building a bullpen. That's not a bad thing to strive for — and the depth the Royals bullpen suggests he was already on that path — but it's also a plan that Kansas City fans would have like to see carried out with Soria as its exclamation point.

Make sure you're ready for opening day ...
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