Joakim Soria looking like pitcher A's envisioned after nightmare start

Joakim Soria looking like pitcher A's envisioned after nightmare start

Joakim Soria has already enjoyed a long and successful career.

Entering his first season with the A's, the 35-year-old reliever had a 2.88 ERA and 220 saves over 11 career seasons, with a pair of All-Star Game appearances.

That's what made Soria's first nine outings with Oakland so stunning. The right-hander allowed nine earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 11.05. This was not the pitcher the A's were expecting when they signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract.

Since mid-April, however, Soria has completely turned things around. In his last 12 appearances, he has surrendered just three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings for an ERA of 1.76.

"It's just the command," Soria said of his improvement. "I'm commanding the fastball. I'm making some more quality pitches and the results are better."

During those 12 most recent outings, Soria has notched 17 strikeouts against four walks, allowing just five hits for a 0.59 WHIP.

"He's got some confidence," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's got some life in him right now. You get off to a slow start with a new team and it can be a little bit demoralizing, but he has a long history of doing what he's doing right now. It is good to see him string a few outings together."

Soria admits it was difficult to get off to such a slow start with a new team, but his years of experience in the majors helped him stay level-headed and get back on track.

"A major league season is a roller coaster," he said. "There are a lot of ups and downs. When there are downs, you have to try to go back to the basics and enjoy it."

Soria has arguably been the A's most reliable reliever the last month, and that's great news for Oakland. Between Soria, Blake Treinen, and Lou Trivino, Melvin has some terrific options for the late innings, whether the A's are leading or tied.

Soria also provides value in his ability to pitch multiple innings. Four of his last five appearances have been more than one inning, including a perfect 1 2/3 in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Indians.

In Soria's mind, the more he pitches, the better he is.

[RELATED: A's to place Davis on 10-day injured list due to hip injury]

"Obviously with outings, it means you're in the game more and I think that's the only way that you can succeed," he said. "Go out there, keep having fun, and do what you love to do."

If Soria can continue to pitch at this level, it will undoubtedly take the A's bullpen to another level.

Why Dallas Braden vehemently opposes MLB's latest proposal to players

Why Dallas Braden vehemently opposes MLB's latest proposal to players

All major professional sports leagues face three main hurdles in returning during the coronavirus pandemic. 

How to manage everyone's safety, how to modify the game rules, and how to allocate money between the players and the league.

It’s that third part which remains MLB’s final, yet biggest challenge to clear.

“It’s almost like you’re at the top of the hill,” NBC Sports California A's broadcaster and former pitcher Dallas Braden said Wednesday. “It’s like we’re right there. We can see it, and it’s a matter of trying to figure out how everybody is going to be able to walk away from this okay in their minds.”

Players have widely opposed the latest proposal from the MLB, which essentially is a second wave of pay cuts for a 2020 season. But this time, the percentage of reduction greatly increases with the player's total salary.

As ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Wednesday, MLB proposed that a $563,500 salary would turn into $262,000 for 2020. Meanwhile, a player signed for $30M would be reduced to $6.95M.

“When you start hand-selecting employees, you are absolutely going to be creating a divide," Braden said. "And it’s because you’re now telling these two sides, who are on the same side, that they are separate.”

The MLB Players Association is expected to counter MLB's proposal by the end of the week, Passan reported later Wednesday night, citing sources. Passan reported that the players are expected to propose a plan that includes more than 100 games and a guarantee of full prorated salaries for the 2020 season

Braden says players have earned their present position of leverage from their years of hard work before they were ever promised an opportunity in Major League Baseball.

“What that person is doing is saying ‘You know what, boss man’,” Braden said. “I’m not going to take that 70 percent haircut you’re offering me right now. Because I’ve been working a swing-shift. I’ve been doing graveyard, double-time. I’ve been saving up so when something like this happens, thankfully I’m not in a position to have to take that 70 percent haircut.”

But players at the major league level aren't the only ones being impacted. Minor leaguers are suffering as well, as the chances of a minor-league season taking place appear slimmer and slimmer. 

No season would likely mean little-to-no compensation for thousands of players, many of whom were already financially constrained.

“Minor leagues are littered with two-bedroom apartments, stacked with eight to ten guys high,” Braden said. “Three in a room, figuring it out. Just figuring it out.”

As for rules and game format changes, Braden believes players will make the best of difficult adaptations. He also believes the A’s will perform as expected, no matter what their schedule looks like.

“I’ve always thought we were an extremely attractive ballclub. Nothing keeping us away from making a push towards that division.”

[RELATED: Why A's should break protocol, sign Semien for the long haul]

Unfortunately at this juncture, Braden is pessimistic about the possibility of MLB and its players finding common ground.

“I hate to say it, but, I think I’ll be seeing you next year, before I see you this year.”

Ever wonder why the A's play 'Celebration' following home victories?

Ever wonder why the A's play 'Celebration' following home victories?

After every A’s home win without fail, you’ll hear “Celebration,” by Kool & The Gang blaring across the speakers as the team fist bumps on the field. 

But … why? Why this song? 

Let’s take it back to 1981 when the tune was at the top of the charts -- that’s when the A’s decided to make that their celebratory theme song in order to enhance the ballpark experience.

Back then, all ballparks used the organ to play their songs, but it was The Coliseum that was the first place to play pop music.

At one point, they tried to steer away from the catchy song and introduce something more local -- that wasn’t much of a success with fans.

You can’t mess with what’s not broken.

Find out more about the song that is synonymous with victory in the video above. 

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