Reliever Soria eager to provide boost to Rangers bullpen

Every player believes spring training is too long. It’s monotonous and boring and has a Groundhog Day feel to it over six weeks.

Extended spring training is a continuation of that, which explains why Joakim Soria couldn’t wait to drive to a ballpark somewhere other than the Surprise Recreation Campus.

Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco or the Dell Diamond in Round Rock would have been welcomed sights for Soria, who was on track to receive the first ticket out and expected to join the Texas Rangers in late May or early June.

“I was ready to get out of here and start my journey with the Rangers,” said Soria, the 29-year-old right-hander who had a second Tommy John elbow surgery in April 2012.

But Soria remains in Surprise going through what he calls “a fourth month of spring training” after he suffered a setback in mid-April while throwing his first simulated game.

On the second pitch, Soria strained his pectoral muscle and his arrival time in Arlington was pushed until at least July.

Everybody felt his pain.

“He was really close ... really close,” said Keith Comstock, the Rangers’ rehab pitching coordinator. “It’s always gut-wrenching for us in rehab to see something like that. We know how hard a guy works to get back to that point and it’s tough to watch.”

Soria had the understandable frustration in the days after, but Comstock made sure to keep a positive atmosphere at the complex.

“We’re all susceptible to depression,” Comstock said. “We made sure his head was up. He didn’t show much depression or anything like that because he’s committed and has a vision of what he wants to do.

“And, after all of this, he’s going to be even more mentally strong than he was before.”

Soria said he looked at the bright side of it, noting that at least it wasn’t more severe such as an elbow or shoulder injury.

He was in good spirits before his workout Tuesday morning, too, because he’s playing long-toss out to 120 feet and will throw his first bullpen session Saturday since the pectoral strain.

Depending on how that bullpen session goes, the Rangers and Soria will be able to put together a better timeline for his return. He hopes to join former extended spring partners Colby Lewis and Kyle McClellan on rehab assignments soon, and then give the Rangers’ bullpen a second-half boost.

“I’m feeling really good,” Soria said. “The pec stuff was frustrating because I was so close, but it’s part of the rehab process. Sometimes you don’t know the reasons why it happens, but I come here every day to do the best I can and get back as soon as possible.

“The only thing on my mind is to try to get out of here and go to the Rangers and help the guys.”

There’s no questioning Soria’s determination and desire to get back to the big leagues, either. Comstock said Soria has been a great model for other rehabbing pitchers in Surprise.

“Joakim has a motto of doing ‘three more’ to get to the big leagues,” Comstock said. “So whenever our guys are done running, they want to do three more sprints because that’s part of Soria’s program.

“You can’t teach stuff like that. He’s a leader down here.”

That’s one of the reasons the Rangers signed Soria in the off-season to a two-year, $8 million deal even though they knew he’d be a midseason addition.

Soria, a two-time All-Star, turned down a chance to close with other teams, as his sole focus is winning a championship. He has never been to the postseason, which is why he didn’t mind that the Rangers already had Joe Nathan locked in as the closer.

“I believe we have a pretty good chance to win, so whatever inning, whatever situation they need me for, I’ll be there,” Soria said.

He paused and repeated a line he’d said at least a dozen times: “I just want to get out of here.”

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