Sep 11, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Joakim Soria (48) pitches to the Seattle Mariners. It may have been his last appearance as a Royal. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Bad News for Joakim Soria

On September 11, 2011, Joakim Soria threw a 2-2 pitch to Miguel Olivo. The ball went into left field for the third out of the game, securing a 2-1 victory for the Royals.

The significance of that event is that it may be the last pitch Soria throws in the regular season as a Royal.

Yesterday, Soria left a game against the Indians with pain in his right elbow. Today he went in for an MRI and the results aren’t good. According to Bob Dutton, the MRI showed damage to Soria’s ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is the ligament replaced by Tommy John surgery. Soria will visit Dr. Lewis Yocum to determine if surgery is necessary. Yocum is the same doctor who performed Tommy John surgery on Stephen Strasburg and Royals prospect John Lamb. Soria has already undergone the procedure in 2003.

After 2012, the Royals hold an $8 million option on Joakim Soria. He’ll miss some time this year, even if surgery isn’t necessary, and after last year’s struggles and this spring’s bad numbers, the Royals have to be prepared to put someone else in his place at the back of the bullpen. Because of that, it’s difficult to justify paying $8 million for a player who may not be healthy or effective or pitch in the role that commands such salary.

If Soria misses 2012, the only way he’ll stay a Royal is if both sides can restructure his deal.

The Royals are deep in the bullpen, with Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton as the early favorites to take over the closer’s role if Soria is out. Louis Coleman is a lock to make it and Tim Collins and Jose Mijares are probably the left-handed options. Aaron Crow was a long shot to make the rotation anyway and I think he works as an all purpose reliever and Kelvin Herrera is a popular option to make the team as well. If Soria’s out, the bullpen may have a spot for a swingman, which could end up being whichever of Luis Mendoza or Felipe Paulino doesn’t crack the rotation.

Unlike the loss of Salvador Perez, there isn’t much panic or dread about this injury. No, it’s not good, but the Royals have the depth to fill in, where they’re currently scrambling to find options to replace Perez. A two-time All-Star on the shelf doesn’t help any hope of contention, though.

Results of Soria’s visit should be available tomorrow. Once those are known, the picture will become clearer.

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