SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Kansas City Royals, who have an impressive group of prospects and players, already had the handicap of being baseball's youngest team. But this spring, they were the unluckiest, as well.
Beyond losing closer Joakim Soria for the year to an elbow injury and his second Tommy John surgery, their catching reserves were depleted when promising young starter Salvador Perez and another young catcher, Manny Pina, both had to undergo surgeries after hurting their knees warming up pitchers in the 'pen. You can't get much more unlucky than that.
Perez, who is seen as a star of the future and was just signed to a $7 million, five-year deal, could be back at midseason. But in the meantime, the Royals acquired Humberto Quintero from Houston to go with Brayan Pena, giving them in effect two backups to fill the job until Perez returns. Kansas City has looked to add another catcher but has been discouraged by what's available. The few teams that have depth at catcher -- Yankees, Padres, Reds and Blue Jays -- want to hold onto their depth. They had a brief dalliance with Cooperstown-bound veteran Ivan Rodriguez but that didn't work out. In the meantime, they are left without a bona-fide starter to catch a youthful staff.
As for the closer job, the Royals are leaning toward veteran Jonathan Broxton, with Greg Holland the other option. They intend to protect Broxton and will try to avoid overusing him; for a while they might try to shy away from appearances in back-to-back games. The Royals have every faith the beloved Soria will work hard to return from surgery, but the prognosis isn't as certain after a second Tommy John procedure. Strudies have shown that while 90 percent return successfully from a first such surgery, the percentage drops to closer to 50 percent for a second surgery. Soria has an $8 million club option for 2013, and it's no certainty that is picked up now, but the Royals definitely want to keep him.