Joakim Soria To Have Tommy John Surgery

The Kansas City Royals' closer is going to have Tommy John on his elbow for the second time in his career.

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Joakim Soria Will Have Tommy John Surgery

Royals closer Joakim Soria was having a bad spring, then he said he was injured. Examinations of the injury revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Damage to the ulnar collateral ligament is usually repaired with Tommy John surgery. Soria took a little time to mull his options, and now he's decided to go ahead with the Tommy John surgery.

It's a predictable course - Soria seemed destined for elbow surgery after his first doctor visit. There's not a whole lot else you can do about this kind of thing. He'll miss the entire 2012 season, and he'll try to make it back for opening day in 2013.

Soria has had Tommy John surgery before, in 2003, on the same elbow (obviously). He recovered and had tremendous success in the major leagues, so there's reason to believe he'll be fine in time once more. This procedure isn't the huge deal that it used to be, and Soria's just 27, so he should have a long career ahead of him.

But what'll be interesting is that the Royals hold an $8 million club option for 2013. They might not be willing to guarantee $8 million to a pitcher who didn't pitch the season before. The Royals could conceivably decline that option, or they could work with Soria to try to re-structure the remainder of his contract.

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Joakim Soria Mulling Options; Tommy John Surgery Looks Likely

Royals closer Joakim Soria is out with an elbow injury. It isn't one of those day-to-day elbow injuries that don't even really count as injuries. Soria's got something nasty going on. Tests showed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. Further tests showed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. That's the ligament that comes out and gets replaced by another ligament in Tommy John surgery.

And it does look like Soria is headed for Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. Writes Will Carroll at SI:

When an exam comes "a couple days" later and is done by Lewis Yocum (or any of the supersurgeons), it's not a good sign. The usual reason is that there's swelling, which makes getting a clear image on an MRI tough, even using advanced magnets and contrast dye [...] Soria had his UCL reconstructed in 2003 and the "honeymoon period," during which the ligamentization process appears to be protective, is gone. A significant tear would cost Soria the season and another run through Tommy John rehab.

And here's Dick Kaegel at MLB.com:

Closer Joakim Soria will take a couple of days off to consider what to do about his ailing right elbow, Royals officials said on Wednesday.

Soria has returned from a visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum, an elbow specialist in Los Angeles, after tests showed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament. That's a problem often resolved by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, which Soria already has undergone once in his career.

As suggested by the headline, Soria has options, and while we don't know for sure what those options are, usually in these cases the options are (1) Tommy John surgery, or (2) rest and rehabilitation. If the tear in the UCL is bad enough, the latter isn't an option, so we can guess that Soria is dealing with a partial tear. Even so, players who go the rest and rehabilitation route very often end up having surgery anyway, with the rest and rehab serving more as a delay than anything else. So Soria's going to have to make a difficult choice. Presuming that he has surgery and rehab on the table, he's already gone through the former once before, and obviously recovered quite well. The latter has a chance to lead to a faster recovery, but also runs the risk of delaying recovery.

As is, if Soria has Tommy John surgery, he would miss the 2012 season and maybe the beginning chunk of 2013. Because of his experience that would be a less daunting option than it would be for other pitchers, but it's not an easy thing to choose.

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Joakim Soria Injury: Royals Move Aaron Crow To Bullpen

With Royals closer Joakim Soria facing possible Tommy John surgery and thus, out for the season, the team is already looking at possible replacements. Bob Dutton:

Crow, who had been an effective reliever for the Royals in 2011 (57 appearances, 2.76 ERA, 149 ERA+, 1.35 WHIP), had been expected to move to Kansas City’s rotation in 2012, but it very well could be that he’ll step in to the closing role. The Royals do have someone in camp and on their 40-man roster with significant closing experience, but:

Jonathan Broxton has made just two spring training appearances covering two innings, both scoreless. He’s coming off elbow surgery himself (bone chips), but is just 27. If he can recover his previous level of performance with the Dodgers, the Royals could have a very good replacement for Soria.

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Joakim Soria Injury: Early Word On Elbow Not Good

Elbows. They are notoriously fragile.

Closers. They are notoriously inconsistent, few of them able to string together more than a few great seasons in a row.

Joakim Soria is a closer, with an elbow. Or perhaps an ex-closer.

This usually means Tommy John surgery, which in this case would mean Soria would disappear from the major leagues until 2013. The Royals have already exercised their $6 million option on Soria for this season, so that money's gone. They have another option for 2013, for $8 million. Which might lead to a tough decision next winter.

In the short term, the saves will probably go to Jonathan Broxton and/or Greg Holland, with Broxton's experience giving him the upper hand in the longer term. The Royals do have a solid bullpen even without Soria, if Broxton's good and the other guys pitch like they did last season.

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