Just eight days before opening day, Royals outfielder Jorge Soler’s spring hit a familiar and painful snag.
Soler, 25, strained an oblique muscle while competing in a minor-league game Sunday afternoon, Royals manager Ned Yost said. He underwent an MRI on Monday and was diagnosed with a grade 1 strain.
Soler was expected to be shut down for five to seven days before beginning a rehab program. He will likely begin the season on the 10-day disabled list, though Yost said the club was still discussing the decision as of Monday afternoon.
“Is it a DL thing?” Yost said Monday morning. “It very well could be.”
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The injury could allow Paulo Orlando to assume the starting job in right field as the season begins. The club also has designated hitter Brandon Moss as a depth option in the outfield.
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in an offseason trade for closer Wade Davis, Soler had started slowly in his first spring with the Royals. He has batted just .143 (7 for 49) with two homers in 17 Cactus League games.
In the last two weeks, he had begun playing in minor-league games in an effort to rack up additional at-bats. On Sunday, he suffered the injury while reaching for a pitch out of the strike zone in his last at-bat, Yost said.
“He went for a down-and-away pitch,” Yost said. “He felt it.”
Soler was expected to begin the season as the Royals’ starter in right field, but the injury could cause him to miss significant time. The most serious oblique strains can require up to six weeks of recovery. Last year, outfielder Jarrod Dyson suffered a grade 2 oblique strain in a Cactus League game on March 2. He did not make his season debut until April 19. Soler’s grade 1 strain is a milder version of the injury.
For Soler, the strain is the latest setback in a career that has been hampered by an assortment of nagging muscle injuries.
Before making his major-league debut in 2014, he sustained strains to his left and right hamstrings, which caused him to miss more than two months of action. He also suffered an oblique strain in 2015 that sidelined him for more than three weeks in late August and early September.
The same season, Soler also missed close to five weeks because of a left ankle sprain. He injured the ankle while awkwardly stepping on first base during a close play.
Last season, the hamstring issues resurfaced. Soler strained his left hamstring on June 6 in Philadelphia and did not play again until Aug. 5. He finished the season healthy, helping the Cubs defeat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.