Pitchers and catchers drifted in and out of the White Sox clubhouse on the official reporting date to spring training, many of them sporting cotton balls taped to their arms after giving blood during physicals.
Yet to be poked and prodded was veteran reliever Joakim Soria, who is attending his first Sox camp after being acquired from the Royals in a Jan. 4 trade. As an 11-year veteran, Soria is in a new locale with a team considered to be on the rise while it rebuilds from the studs up.
Can being with the Sox help rejuvenate the 33-year-old’s career?
“I don’t know,” Soria said. “I’m just here to do what I do.”
What Soria does is get hitters out with regularity, something the Sox bullpen will welcome after being torn apart by general manager Rick Hahn’s wheeling and dealing for prospects last season. In particular, Soria might be the guy manager Rick Renteria hands the ball to in a closing role. While Soria hasn’t been a team’s regular closer since 2015 with the Tigers, he meets the job description. Among active pitchers, he is tied for sixth in saves with 204 and ranks eighth with an 82.9 save percentage.
“It’s something I’ve done a good part of my career,” said Soria, who will wear No. 48 with the Sox. “I know how to do it, what it takes, and if they decide to give me that spot I will be happy to accept that.”
Soria went 4-3 with a 3.70 earned-run average with 64 strikeouts and 20 holds in 59 appearances with the Royals in ’17. His 20 holds tied for 12th among American League relievers.
Two Tommy John surgeries during his career have stripped Soria of some of the zip off his fastball, and he said he has learned to make adjustments.
“I always rely on the fastball,” he said. “I consider that my first pitch because I can command it very well, but this is a game of adjustments and you have to adjust to keep playing. If you are old enough to say you are a veteran you have to make adjustments.”
As far as joining a team that is in the midst of a rebuild, Soria believes the Sox can be contenders this season.
“Baseball is a lot of surprises,” Soria said. “You’ve seen through the years teams that are rebuilding and they have postseason seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up winning the division. Baseball is a different animal and you never know if this is going to be the year. If everybody has the best year of their career, we can go on a good run.”