Offseason conditioning paying off for Soria

Offseason conditioning paying off for Soria

KANSAS CITY -- Joakim Soria's club-record 25th straight save certainly wasn't a slam-dunk.

Facing the top of the Yankees' order in the first hour of Saturday morning, Soria was greeted by Derek Jeter's single. He got Curtis Granderson to fly out, and after catcher Jason Kendall dropped a foul popup, Soria struck out Mark Teixeira. And when Robinson Cano grounded out, the Royals had a 4-3 victory and Soria broke Jeff Montgomery's 1993 mark of 24 consecutive saves.

"The Yankees are always tough," Soria said. "All the teams in the Major Leagues are tough, and these guys have a really good lineup and you have to fight with those guys."

Soria also notched his 32nd save to tie Tampa Bay's Rafael Soriano for the American League lead. Unlike last year when Soria missed some time with a shoulder ailment, he's been fine this year.

"I think this offseason was good, staying here and working with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Ty [Hill] on my issues in my arm and I feel pretty good now," Soria said. "He helped me fix my problems in my arm and everything and I feel real good now."

Since becoming the Royals' full-time closer on July 31, 2007, Soria has converted 111 of 120 save opportunities for a 92.5 success rate -- second in that period only to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (94.5 percent).

Soria is known for tossing up an occasional slow curveball at about 69-72 mph, but he says he won't go as extreme as Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla, who has a curve that registers about 50-53 mph.

"It like floats, it's real slow," Soria said. "It's really rare."

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully has named the pitch the "soap bubble" because it floats out like a bubble from a kid's wire blower.

"The batters freak out because he's been throwing hard, hard and hard and you go with his slow one. They get out of balance and timing and everything," Soria said.

Soria won't go that slow, though.

"No, I just try to get outs," he said.

So far, so good as a 2.09 ERA and a .200 opponents' average in his 220 games as a Royal will attest.