Royals reliever Joakim Soria leaned back in a leather chair and let his mouth form a smile on Wednesday afternoon, reflecting on what has been a volatile season thus far.
“I’ve never been in this type of situation in my entire life,” Soria said. “I don’t remember this, even when I was a little kid.”
The situation, as it stood on Wednesday afternoon, included a 4.96 ERA in 17 appearances in his first season back with the Royals; a cluster of frustrating bad luck — compounded by a poor start to the season; and a curious deluge of balks. Soria, who will turn 32 next week, entered the season with just two balks in eight career seasons. In the last month, he has been called for three.
The latest balk came on Tuesday, when Soria yielded two runs during the seventh inning of an eventual 10-7 loss to the New York Yankees.
“I guess everyone is picking on me right now,” Soria said, before losing the smile. “I just want to make the adjustment. I just need to make the adjustment.”
In some ways, Tuesday provided a representative sample of Soria’s 2016 season. The Yankees did not hit a baseball harder than 85 mph, according to the exit velocities provided by MLB’s Statcast technology. They still came away with three hits and two runs, scoring the game-tying run on a broken-bat flare to left field. The night, Soria said, felt reminiscent of his opening-night performance against the New York Mets.
“I felt like I pitched really good,” Soria said. “I feel like I executed my pitches in the right place and the right time.”
He added: “It’s something that I have to look at as a positive and learn from … and make me tougher.”
On the subject of the balks, Royals manager Ned Yost said he believed that Soria was being targeted by umpires. All three of the balks have come after Soria failed to come fully set while in the stretch. Soria said he has been pitching this way his entire career. But apparently, umpires have begun to take notice.
“Like I say, I have to be the one to make the adjustment,” Soria said.
On the subject of his pitching, Soria said he wants to stay the course. Not all of his poor outings can be put on bad luck, of course, but enough can that Soria said he didn’t seek to change anything about his mechanics or his routine. In fact, after Tuesday’s outing, Soria said he joked with teammates that he needed to get the other team to start hitting the ball harder.
“Next time, I’ll throw it down the middle and see if they can hit it harder,” Soria said. “It might find somebody.”