Joakim Soria of the Royals is the latest Rule 5 pick to become a star. After saving 17 games and posting a 2.48 ERA in 62 games as a rookie, his numbers are even better for the Royals this season. He's converted 21 of 22 save opportunities while compiling a 1.29 ERA. He's also struck out 37 batters in 35 innings and has an 0.77 WHIP. The native of Monclova, Mexico, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: Tell us about how you have thrown the ball this season?
Joakim Soria: It's still early in the season, but I feel pretty good. I feel confident in all my pitches. Our team started off very strong this year, and I'm hoping that we can get some momentum into the latter part of the season.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your club started off well. Were you surprised?
Soria: I wasn't surprised at all by how well we started the season. I feel like we have a great team with great players. We are all professional baseball players here. It's not surprising to me then what we did because it's our job to win ballgames.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you reflect back upon the success your enjoyed last season as a rookie?
Soria: I had a pretty good year last season. I'm trying to use that as a foundation to keep going strong and have another good year this season.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What closing experience did you have prior to last season?
Soria: I've been in the role of closer both here in the Majors and in the Mexican League. The Mexican League is somewhat similar to Triple-A ball here. Obviously it's the same game in both leagues, but the hitters here in MLB are much better. This league is the best of the best, and it shows.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What type of competition do you have in the Mexican League?
Soria: The Mexican League is a good league. There are a lot of good players down there. I think teams are realizing that now because there is definitely a lot more interest from scouts around the league. I think it does a good job as a developmental league in getting players ready for the next level of play.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You played in the Minors for the Padres' organization before joining the Royals. Since San Diego is so close to your native Mexico, are you disappointed you never got a chance to play with the Padres?
Soria: I'm not really disappointed that I never got the chance to play for San Diego. In a sense, it would have been nice seeing that it's so close to Mexico, and they have a great fan base down there, but the Royals gave me my big break, and I can't thank them enough for that.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is there a big Mexican population in Kansas City?
Soria: There's not really a large Mexican population here in Kansas City, but the people here are great. They have treated me very well ever since I arrived here.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you do in the area for fun?
Soria: I try to keep a low profile when I'm not on the field. Most of my free time is spent with my family. We like to take walks, do some shopping at the local malls or dine out at our favorite restaurants.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are wearing braces. Since your brother is a dentist, did you get a good discount?
Soria: It's been great for me because I don't really like going to the dentist, but since it's family, it makes the process much easier. He actually puts on the braces that I'm wearing now. I've only had them on for a few months. Unfortunately, I have at least another year or so to go.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.