On Monday morning, Jorge Soler and Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz sauntered out toward left here at Target Field.
The season opener was more than three hours away, and Soler was set to spend the afternoon in the dugout after going on the 10-day disabled list Sunday because of a Grade 1 strain of his left oblique. But as the Royals prepared to play the Minnesota Twins, Soler fielded fly balls in a controlled workout. It was the first time Soler had tested his oblique with any baseball activities since injuring the muscle in a minor-league game on Feb. 26. The scene represented the most positive sign yet that Soler’s time on the disabled list could be limited.
“He feels really good right now,” said Royals catching coach Pedro Grifol, who interpreted for Soler. “He did some stuff outside and he felt good.”
Soler said he would begin taking dry swings in three to four days. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 9 — the start of his stint was backdated to March 30 — but he will likely require more time before he is ready to return to a major-league field. The Royals have not offered a public timetable for his return. But a Grade 1 oblique strain can sideline a player anywhere from seven to 10 days to two to three weeks. For Soler, Monday was his eighth day since the injury.
“It is frustrating having it so close to the season,” Soler said. “But it happened.”
Soler was acquired last December in a trade that sent closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs. A 25-year-old slugger with four years of club control remaining, Soler was expected to begin the season as the Royals’ starting right fielder. He injured his left oblique while taking a cut in a minor-league game. As he swung, Soler said he felt something like a “crack” — or pop — as the muscle pulled.
“It has happened to him before,” Grifol said, translating for Soler. “But he didn’t feel what he felt that time.”
For Soler, the strain represented the latest setback in a career that has been hampered by an assortment of nagging muscle injuries.
Before making his major-league debut with the Cubs in 2014, he sustained strains to his left and right hamstrings and missed more than two months in the minors. He also had 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.
In 2016, 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.