Former Royals closer Joakim Soria needed directions when he returned Friday to Kauffman Stadium for the first time as a visiting player.
“It’s weird to come to the other side of the field,” he said after emerging from the visitors’ weight room in Texas Rangers workout gear after a session on the exercise bike.
“I had to find out where everything is in the (visitors’) clubhouse, the weight room and everything. It’s kind of funny after playing here (for six years).”
Soria, 29, became a free agent last winter after the Royals chose to exercise a $750,000 buyout rather than pay $8 million this season while he attempted to recover from the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
While the Royals expressed interest in retaining Soria on an incentive-laden contract, the Rangers stepped forward with a two-year offer for $8 million with a club option for 2015 at $7 million.
Soria became a Ranger.
Soria spent three months in rehab before returning July 7 to the big leagues with a scoreless inning against Houston. He entered the weekend series with a 3.10 ERA in 22 outings as a setup reliever to Rangers closer Joe Nathan.
“My elbow is doing very good,” said Soria, an All-Star with the Royals in 2008 and 2010. “I’m pitching more consistently now. It’s all good. I have confidence in all of my pitches. I’m ready to compete.”
Soria is also pitching in a postseason chase for the first time in his career, but he noted the Royals are also in the hunt — something that never occurred in his time in Kansas City.
“They got good by subtraction,” he laughed. “I’ve got good friends over there. I’m really happy for them. I’m really happy for the Royals’ organization. ut it’s just business. Baseball is like that.”
Manager Ned Yost chose not to adjust his rotation for the season’s final 10 games after the Royals returned from Thursday’s open date in the schedule.
“It doesn’t do any good,” he said, “unless you put them all on a four-man (rotation) for the final week. Jeremy (Guthrie) has never done it. Now is not the time to (experiment).”
That means all five starters are in line for two more outings, including rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura, who is scheduled to pitch Monday’s series opener in Seattle.
Ventura allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday in his major-league debut against Cleveland but settled for a no-decision when the bullpen blew a two-run lead in a 5-3 loss.
“We’ll start Ventura,” Yost confirmed, “and if things start to get dicey, boom, right to the pen.”
Ervin Santana started Friday’s series opener against the Rangers, and Guthrie and James Shields are slotted for Saturday and Sunday. Ventura will start the opener in Seattle, followed by Bruce Chen and Santana.
The season concludes next weekend with a four-game series in Chicago. Guthrie is slotted for the opener, followed by Shields, Ventura and Chen.
This weekend marks only the second series ever between the Royals and Rangers when each team had at least 80 victories.
The only other occasion was the final series of the 1993 season at Texas. That series marked the final games in the careers of future Hall of Famers George Brett and Nolan Ryan.
Class AAA Omaha manager Mike Jirschele is expected to join the big-league staff Saturday for the remainder of the season.
Jirschele, 54, just completed his 11th consecutive season at Omaha by guiding the Storm Chasers to their second Pacific Coast League crown in three seasons.
Omaha then beat Durham (Rays) 2-1 on Tuesday in the Class AAA championship game in Allentown, Pa.
Clubs are permitted to add one on-field coach in September.
The Royals previously added Class AA Northwest Arkansas manager Brian Poldberg, which filled the vacancy created when bench coach Chino Cadahia took a leave of absence for family reasons.
Honor for players
The Royals honored their minor-league pitchers and players of the year for their affiliates before Friday’s game against the Rangers.
The players were selected from Class AAA Omaha, Class AA Northwest Arkansas, Class A Wilmington, Class A Lexington, Rookie Idaho Falls, Rookie Burlington, Rookie Surprise and the Rookie Dominican Royals.
All 16 players took part in an autograph session before the game.
“It was great,” said Northwest Arkansas first baseman Matt Fields. “I’ve never really experienced something like this. It’s amazing to see the support. They don’t really know us, but they know us. It’s a great experience.”
The honorees by affiliate: Omaha (pitcher Chris Dwyer and infielder Christian Colon), Northwest Arkansas (pitcher Aaron Brooks and Fields), Wilmington (pitcher Sam Selman and outfielder Lane Adams), Lexington (pitcher Christian Binford and shortstop Raul Mondesi), Idaho Falls (pitcher Patrick Conroy and third baseman Hunter Dozier), Burlington (pitcher Luis Santos and third baseman Mauricio Ramos), Surprise (pitcher Pedro Fernandez and first baseman-outfielder Samir Duenez) and Dominican (pitcher Yunior Marte and infielder Angelo Castellano).
It was 42 years ago Saturday — Sept. 21, 1970 — that pitcher Jim York became the first player drafted by the Royals to appear in a major-league game.
York allowed one run while pitching 4 1/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in an 8-2 victory at Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader.
The Royals selected York in the 16th round of the 1969 draft. He was 6-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 57 relief appearances for the Royals in 1970-71 before going to Houston in a Dec. 2, 1971 trade. That was a five-player deal that brought first baseman John Mayberry to the Royals.
• Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was two for four with a pair of singles and has 58 multi-hit games this season, the most in the American League.
• Starter Ervin Santana had his 23rd quality start, which is a career best. He had 22 for the Angels in 2008.
• The Royals were five of 10 with four singles, a double, four walks and a hit batter with two outs Friday.