Soria heading to All-Star Game
Closer will represent Royals on July 15 at Yankee Stadium
KANSAS CITY -- Joakim Soria, having a near-perfect season as a closer, was named on Sunday to represent the Royals in the 2008 All-Star Game.
Soria has 23 saves in 24 chances and a 1.22 ERA in 35 games.
This is the first All-Star selection for Soria, a second-year player who surged to prominence last season after being selected from the Padres in the Rule 5 Draft. He is the lone Kansas City player named to the American League team, although outfielder Jose Guillen is a Final Vote contender.
Soria was selected by AL manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox.
"This is a big, big thing in my career, like my country is," said Soria, the 99th Mexican-born player to play in the Major Leagues. "I am just happy for myself and I am proud to represent my team and my city."
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Ironically, the July 15 Midsummer Classic will be played at Yankee Stadium, where on June 7 Soria suffered his only blown save and loss. Other than that, he's been spectacular.
"No fear," Soria said. "It's important to be like that."
Indeed, Soria seems imperturbable when he takes the mound in tight situations. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but his deceptive delivery and array of four pitches have served him well.
Of the past 29 batters he faced entering Sunday, he retired 28. His last pre-All-Star selection outing, on Thursday night at Baltimore, was pretty typical. He struck out two and got a popup, which he caught himself.
"You feel very secure when you put him in against any offense in one-run situations because of the number of pitches he can bring to the table and the command of his fastball in setting the next pitch up," manager Trey Hillman said.
"He can stick with the fastball because the deceptiveness, to go along with the 90, 91 miles an hour, really makes it hard to hit. Because he hits the glove."
In 37 innings prior to his All-Star selection, Soria had 41 strikeouts along with nine walks and four hit batters. Opponents were batting just .143 against him.
Soria opened the season with 13 straight saves, breaking Al Hrabosky's club record of 11. He's been scored on in just two of 35 outings. He went 16 1/3 innings before giving up a run this year and in one stretch retired 24 straight batters.
"It's a big year for me, and hopefully it can stay like all my whole career," Soria said. "I am just going to try to keep going and try to help my team and try to enjoy the game. Every time, every day, I try to do my best. I am very happy and thank God for that [success]."
From Monclova, Mexico, he's even picked up a nickname: "The Mexicutioner."
Soria, as befits his closer role, goes after hitters aggressively.
"It's good to be like that, because if they feel you're scared or afraid about something, they take that and they use it," he said. "It's good for me to be aggressive all the time. If they're going to hit me, they're going to hit my best any time I go to the mound."
Soria becomes the first Royals closer to be an All-Star since Mike MacDougal in 2003. Other Kansas City stoppers who were All-Stars were Jeff Montgomery, who was selected three times (1992-93, '96) and Dan Quisenberry, also picked three times ('82-84).
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.