Prepared Soria caught off guard by blister opening

Tigers reliever can't get good grip of baseball, hopes it doesn't cost him time this spring

Prepared Soria caught off guard by blister opening

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Joakim Soria spent extra time throwing off a mound this Spring Training so that he'd be better prepared for game action. He wasn't quite prepared for the blister that opened up on him Sunday.

If this seems odd for a veteran Major League pitcher, it is. For many pitchers, blisters are a process, and it's easier to deal with them in Spring Training and build up calluses than to have to repair them in the regular season.

For Soria, however, it's a completely different experience.

"I've never had blisters, so I don't know what's going on here," he said as he stared at the bloody mess on the inside of his right thumb.

Maybe it's the fact that he had never trained in warm humid Florida until this year. Aside from one inning at Sun Life Stadium in 2008, Soria had never even pitched outdoors in Florida until this Spring Training. Maybe it's a different pitch or a different grip. But for someone whose stretch run with the Tigers last year was shortened by an oblique strain, it was another obstacle, even if it was more nuisance than injury.

Soria's hoping this one doesn't cost him any time, even in Spring Training, because he likes the way his arm feels.

"My arm feels good. Everything feels in place," he said. "It's just that I don't have my grip. When you don't have the grip on the ball, then it's tough to command the ball and get the ball down. You see the game, everything was up, and that's because I can't have the grip on my ball in the right place."

The blister formed a few days ago, Soria said, when he caught a seam wrong. On Sunday, it busted open, and it hampered him from his first pitches when he took the mound for the third inning. The righty walked Astros hitter George Springer on four pitches, then gave up an Evan Gattis single.

Soria found the grip on his breaking ball to put up a three-pitch strikeout on Luis Valbuena chasing a slow curveball, then fell behind each of the next three hitters. Carlos Correa flied out to center on a 3-1 pitch, but Jonathan Singleton walked.

Soria still got his fastball up to 93 mph, according to a scout in attendance. He just didn't have command of it. At one point, manager Brad Ausmus visited the mound to check on him, as did head athletic Kevin Rand. Soria said he wanted to finish out the inning, which he eventually did with a Jake Marisnick popout behind home plate.

"My arm feels good. My body feels really good," Soria said. "I'm just glad that I got out of that inning without grip at all on my hand."

He's now left to try to get it back, and his teammates have plenty of tips. Shane Greene suggested the longtime remedy of soaking the blister in pickle juice. Justin Verlander has had to treat blisters the last couple of years. Anibal Sanchez had a disabled list stint due to a large blister popping last May.

"Obviously I have to treat this thing," Soria said. "Hopefully in the next couple days I'll be able to put glue on it. That's my goal."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.