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.
"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.