The Royals expect to be without All-Star closer Joakim Soria throughout their weekend series against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
And maybe longer.
Soria was diagnosed with a sore right shoulder late Thursday after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam, but the Royals see no reason, at this point, to place him on the disabled list.
“There is no structural damage,” manager Trey Hillman said. “He’s on special medication, and he’s doing some exercises.”
Club officials now acknowledge Soria has been nursing a sore shoulder for several days. That explains why Soria went eight days without pitching before working a scoreless inning in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory in Cleveland.
“He went out and tested his arm (Wednesday),” Hillman said, “and it was perfect. Or I wouldn’t have used him.”
The problem returned Thursday, which prompted the examination.
“It’s never a good thing when a guy can’t pitch,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “His MRI is really clean. It’s unchanged (from previous exams). He just has some tightness in there.”
Soria declined comment on the extent of his ailing shoulder or how long it has troubled him. He has five saves in five appearances after converting 42 of 45 opportunities last season when he compiled a 1.60 ERA in 63 appearances.
Hillman said he would employ multiple relievers to close games until Soria returns. Soria took part Friday in pre-game drills but did not throw.
“We’re comfortable going with 11 pitchers for now,” Moore said. “We’re going to be cautious. We’re going to take a big picture approach with this.”
That suggests the Royals are likely to take few chances with Soria once he returns. Plans to use him for four- or five-out saves are likely to be shelved. There is also likely to be some caution initially to use him on successive days.
Soria’s recent lack of use raised questions regarding his health, especially since Hillman said repeatedly earlier this year he wanted to avoid any such extended inactivity.
Hillman, Soria and others dismissed those concerns — until Friday.
“I’ve always been of the belief,” Hillman said, “that the more information you put out there, the more it weakens your position, so to speak — especially when it’s your closer.”