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Soria's struggles prompt little concern

SURPRISE, Ariz. | Two shaky performances this week by All-Star closer Joakim Soria aren’t generating any red flags as the Royals prepare to break camp here in the desert.

“How many games has he been in? How far apart?” pitching coach Bob McClure parried. “(On Wednesday,) he jammed a guy and a couple went through the infield.

“He’s all right. I don’t have any concerns with him.”

Soria barely preserved a three-run lead Wednesday in the ninth inning when the Royals held on for a 6-5 victory over Colorado. That came just two days after he blew a three-run lead in the ninth against the Cubs when he failed to finish the inning.

“My pitches are pretty good,” Soria said. “I’m just hanging a few. They’re able to see that and hit it. I just need to hit my spots, and I’ll be all right.”

The Royals’ efforts to bolster their bullpen through off-season acquisitions won’t mean much if Soria fails to provide a lock-down hammer at the end of games. He was magnificent last year in compiling a 1.60 ERA in 63 games while converting 42 of 45 save opportunities.

Soria appeared in top form earlier in camp in working four successive scoreless innings in addition to two scoreless innings while on brief duty for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

But he yielded three runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning Monday against the Cubs before wobbling through his save against the Rockies by stranding runners at first and third after yielding two runs and four hits.

“He’s got to pitch ahead and he’s got to locate,” manager Trey Hillman said. “If he locates, he’ll be successful. And if he doesn’t, he won’t.”

Soria figures to get one more tune-up opportunity this weekend in Texas before the regular season opens Monday in Chicago.

Position battles

Roman Colon is closing the spring on a thud in his quest to win a bullpen job. He gave up three runsin an inning Wednesday for the second time in his last three appearances after yielding just one run in his first 10 2/3 innings.

“Both times, it’s the same thing,” Hillman said. “He can throw and locate that fastball decent. But he’s got to be able to throw strikes with his secondary pitches. He’s throwing some strikes with them, but they’re not (high-)quality strikes.

On to Texas

Seven games in Surprise weren’t enough this spring for the Royals and Rangers. The two teams conclude spring training by playing two more games this weekend in Texas.

The teams play at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Frisco, the site of the Rangers’ Class AA affiliate in the Texas League. Frisco is located roughly 25 north of Dallas. The spring finale is 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies will start for the Royals; the Rangers are starting Vicente Padilla and Kris Benson.

Traveling party

The Royals are taking 32 players to Texas for the weekend _ everyone currently on the big-league camp roster except pitcher Sidney Ponson, who is staying in Surprise to pitch Sunday in minor-league camp.

Ponson’s outing Sunday, when the Royals have an open date, keeps him on schedule to pitch April 10 in the home opener against the Yankees on normal rest.

The Royals are adding minor-league pitcher Greg Atencio to their weekend travel roster. Atencio, 27, was 4-4 with a 3.63 ERA last season in 36 relief appearances for Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha.

The Royals must trim seven more players from their camp roster by 2 p.m. Sunday to reach the 25-man limit.

“We might have to go until the 12th hour in Chicago,” Hillman said. “We’ve had a lot of preparation meetings. Now we’ll see what these last three games provide.”

The camp roster:

Pitchers (15): Roman Colon, Juan Cruz, Davies, Brandon Duckworth, Kyle Farnsworth, Greinke, Tim Hamulack, Ron Mahay, Gil Meche, Sidney Ponson, Horacio Ramirez, Soria, Robinson Tejeda, Doug Waechter and Jamey Wright.

Catchers (3): John Buck, Miguel Olivo and Brayan Peña.

Infielders (9): Mike Aviles, Willie Bloomquist, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Alex Gordon, Mike Jacobs, Tony Peña, Ryan Shealy and Mark Teahen. Outfielders (5): Shane Costa, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, José Guillen and Mitch Maier.

Hudson retires

Right-hander Luke Hudson opted to retire after experiencing renewed shoulder pain in recent workouts while in minor-league camp. Hudson, 31, worked just 18 1/3 innings over the last two seasons while battling to recover from injuries.

“I’ve decided to hang it up,” he said. “I’ve been trying to make it back for two years, but the pain is still there. It’s been getting worse for the last two weeks.”

Hudson was 7-6 with a 5.12 ERA in 26 games for the Royals in 2006 after joining the club that spring as a minor-league free agent. He finishes his career at 17-18 with a 5.11 ERA in 58 games for the Reds and Royals in parts of five seasons.

Looking back

It was 25 years ago Friday -- April 3, 1984 -- that Onix Concepcion hit a home run on the first pitch in the first inning of the season opener against Ron Guidry at then-Royals Stadium.

The Royals went on to win the game 4-2 behind Buddy Black in front of just 10,006 on a cold, wet night. That victory started the Royals toward their fifth division title in nine years.

Up next

Royals (RHP Zack Greinke) vs. Rangers (RHP Vicente Padilla), at 7:05 p.m. in Frisco, Texas.

Quotebook

“I think so. We were certainly here long enough.”

&mdash:manager Trey Hillman on whether the Royals accomplished what they needed to accomplish in spring training.

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