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Soria removes himself from closer role

Soria removes himself from closer role

Soria removes himself from closer role
KANSAS CITY -- Joakim Soria had a very personal suggestion for Royals manager Ned Yost: Remove Joakim Soria as the closer.

Yost agreed after Soria blew his second save in two games on Monday and decided to use rookie Aaron Crow as the closer, at least temporarily.

Soria took a loss for the second straight day, giving up a two-run homer to Torii Hunter as the Los Angeles Angels rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to win on Memorial Day, 10-8. That was Soria's fifth blown save in 12 chances this season.

"After the game, I went to his office and told him it's the right time to do it," Soria said. "I don't want to be a part of this losing streak. The team is playing really good. They need a man that can go after them and right now, obviously, it's not that I want to lose the games."

Yost, while admitting he was eager to see Soria get over the hump, agreed with the right-hander who has given the Royals 139 saves in the last five years. Soria converted 43 of 46 opportunities last year.

"We've gotten to a point where we'll back Jack off now," Yost said. "We'll give him a break. He's pitched back-to-back days, 40-something pitches in two days. We'll give him a break tomorrow and get him back -- with the sense of getting him back into the closer's role -- by getting him in situations where maybe he can throw multiple innings in less pressure situations."

There seems to be little doubt that a 3-3 record, five blown saves and a 6.55 ERA has eroded Soria's confidence. But he believes he can regain his old standing as a premier closer by taking a step back now.

"I think it's the right way to do it. I want try to build up and try to work hard and work on my confidence and get back up and be the one that I was before," Soria said.

His arm seems sound with no recurrence of the shoulder soreness that plagued him early in the 2009 season.

"I feel good. I know I can do this," Soria said. "I know I'm the type of person that never gives up. This is not a give-up. This is time to take a break, rebuild everything that I have done and try to figure out what is going on. Last night I asked God for another chance and it happened. If I had a blown save I was going to talk to Ned and say that I needed a break."

Yost was asked if Soria's confidence was damaged by his recent failures.

"It probably is," Yost said. "It's always been my belief that you give guys ample opportunity to work through situations, especially one like Soria, like Billy Butler, like [Jeff] Francoeur -- guys that have track records and have had success and are All-Star caliber players. They all run through rough streaks and they all find ways to get out of it.

"With a closer, it's a lot more glaring than it is with your No. 4 hitter. Billy went through a streak for three weeks where he really struggled and nobody noticed it because everybody else was swinging the bat around him. But, if your closer goes into a streak, it's much more magnified, it's much more amplified. And everybody sees it."

Crow has had an extraordinary run of success for a rookie. He has a 2-0 record and a 1.33 ERA in 22 games, giving up runs in just two of his outings.

"Jack has been one of the best closers in baseball for a few years now. I was told it was just temporary until Jack gets back to his old self and he'll be back closing out like he used to," Crow said.

"It should be a challenge and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we can turn it around and start winning some games here soon."

Yost says there are abundant theories on what might be wrong with Soria but no one seems to have a definitive answer.

"His mechanics seem to be OK. There are a lot of theories, everybody's got theories, but his fastball always had that little hop to it and it's missing that little hop right now. Is that mechanical? We don't know," Yost said.

"He's gotten away from his fastball. His No. 1 and No. 2 pitches are his fastball two-seamer and a changeup and he's gotten away from his changeup."

So Yost and pitching coach Bob McClure will take a look at bringing the changeup more into the mix.

"I feel my fastball is the same," Soria said. "I don't know if it's just luck or what. A pitcher has to have talent and luck, too, but right now I have talent but I don't have the luck that I need to get outs."

His teammates were sympathetic to his struggles.

"It tough, man," Francoeur said, "but you see a lot of guys go through it at some point. Hopefully for him he can get some innings that aren't so pressure packed right now and just get some breathing room."

"He's been so successful the last couple of years that a little bit of failure and everybody wonders, 'What's going on?'" left fielder Alex Gordon said. "It's tough role, but I have confidence in him that he's going to come back and be himself again."

The Angels, after their win, were cautious in their comments about Soria.

"We haven't seen him in awhile," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The first series [of the season], he looked good. I don't know ... in our book, he's still really good."

For Soria, it's obviously a setback, but he tried to put it in perspective.

"I'm not dying," Soria said. "There are really worse things than having a bad two months. I'm healthy and my wife and my kid and my family is good. It's just a bad situation in my job and I need to figure out what's going on."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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