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Soria responds after layoff to earn save

Royals waiting for right chance for Soria

CLEVELAND -- Both Joakim Soria and Royals manager Trey Hillman insisted there was nothing wrong with the idled closer and, as it turned out, they were right.

Soria had not pitched for eight days and questions were being asked about his situation. He was just fine, they said.

And later on Wednesday evening, Soria was called on to pitch the ninth against the Cleveland Indians and responded with a scoreless inning to notch his fifth save. It wasn't simon-pure -- he issued a walk and gave up a single -- but he got the job done.

"I felt pretty good," Soria said. "It was bad weather and it was hard to throw. With the rain, it was a little bit wet, but I still threw pretty good. My fastball was moving like normal."

In short, he didn't feel rusty despite the layoff.

"I felt ready," he said. "My command was there and I was still hitting my spots," he said.

Soria had not pitched since April 13, when he recorded a save against the Indians at Kansas City. It was a hairy outing when Soria relieved Ron Mahay in the ninth inning with two runners on, then gave up two hits and wild-pitched a runner home before nailing down a 4-2 victory.

He did not appear in the next six games, with two open dates mixed in.

"We've been in situations where I've taken the starters longer, in Zack [Greinke's] case, and no-save situations," Hillman explained before Wednesday night's game.

Soria was warming up on Saturday night at Texas when Greinke went out and finished the ninth for a complete-game shutout.

"I have full intention of being more aggressive with him over the course of the season, but not from a standpoint of, after he's had time off, getting him in 'just because,'" Hillman said.

Neither Hillman nor Soria seemed concerned that the closer might lose sharpness due to lack of game activity.

"I feel like I'm getting enough throwing in the bullpen to stay ready," Soria said. "There just hasn't been the right situation. I'm just waiting for my time."

Hillman said: "It's not a long history, but he has shown us the ability -- even when he sits for a little while -- to still be able to go out and be effective and throw strikes so that's where I'm hopeful he is."

Sometimes an idle closer is brought into a game just to get some work. Hillman was asked if, for example, he might have brought Soria into Tuesday night's game in the eighth inning with the Indians clinging to a 6-5 lead.

"The answer is no. It's just a bad habit to get into," Hillman said "The history, as the closer role has developed, is you run into a lot of problems if you bring your closer into a tie situation on the road as opposed to at home. Or, in a potential situation where it's one run and you tie the game up and you're committed with your closer in the eighth, go ahead and run him back out in the ninth and then you're exposed at the back end of your bullpen once you do get a lead. It's just not something I'd want to make a habit of, not to say I'd wouldn't ever do it."

As it developed Tuesday, Juan Cruz came into the eighth and gave up a two-run homer, the Royals' ninth-inning comeback fell short and they lost, 8-7, and Soria was not needed.

The tie situation on the road came up on Sunday at Texas when Kyle Farnsworth relieved in the ninth with the score 5-5 and gave up a walk-off home run to Michael Young.

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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