DETROIT — Joakim Soria is staying put. Friday morning the Tigers exercised the club option on the right-hander, which was set at $7 million. The move was expected, though there was some question whether the Tigers would stick with Soria as a result of the rough postseason he had following a solid regular season.
Soria will take over the eighth inning duties as the set-up man for closer, Joe Nathan. Reliever Bruce Rondon, who spent the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, will be eased into games as gently as possible.
However, the Tigers aren't sure (and haven't been for some time) that Rondon will be ready for Opening Day. During the end-of-the-season press conference, Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski said that while Nathan would remain the team's closer, he would have to pitch well to keep his position.
Soria went through a late-season injury just as he was settling into Detroit. The 30-year-old was acquired from theTexas Rangers on July 23 in exchange for prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson. Both were considered two of the top pitching prospects in the league, so the price to get Soria in the first place was not cheap. For that reason, among others, the Tigers weren't expected to part with him.
In his first three games after coming to the Tigers, Soria struggled. However, he settled down in his next three outings until a Grade 2 right pectoral major strain forced him onto the disabled list for a month. After his first outing (since returning from the DL) where he gave up a run on a hit, Soria pitched well, shutting down the opposition in the rare chances he was allowed to pitch.
Soria finished the season with a 3.25 ERA, a FIP of 2.09, and a 0.99 WHIP. By contrast, Joba Chamberlain and Nathan held 1.56 and 2.00 WHIPs respectively, with their FIPs being 0.89 and 5.47 accordingly. Soria also had a 1.22 BB/9, whereas Chamberlain's was 2.16 and Nathan' a 5.19.
Before being acquired by Detroit, Soria had been closing for the Rangers all season, therefore, if Nathan is unable to pitch well in 2015, Soria could slip into that role. Including the run given up in his return from the DL, Soria retained a 1.35 ERA in his last seven games and allowed just three hits, walking no one.