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Royals exercise option on closer Joakim Soria

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Joakim Soria will keep closing games for the Kansas City Royals into next season.

The team announced Monday it had exercised its option on the two-time All-Star, which is valued at $6 million for 2012. The Royals also hold options for 2013 of $8 million and 2014 for $8.75 million, with $750,000 buyouts each year.

“This decision was more of a formality,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Joakim has been an exceptional closer for the last five years. For us to put together a strong pitching staff in 2012, it is important that Joakim remain a key component at the back end of the bullpen.”

Soria struggled at times last season, going 5-5 with 28 saves and a career-worst 4.03 ERA. But he was better after June 1, when he converted 21 of 23 save opportunities with a 2.48 ERA.

Soria was coming off a 2010 season in which the right-hander had 43 saves and a 1.78 ERA.

There was little doubt the Royals would exercise their option on Soria after they held onto him at the July 31 trading deadline. He’s established himself as one of the game’s premier closers at just 27 years old, with 160 saves in 180 chances over the past five seasons. His career ERA is just 2.40.

The Royals acquired Soria from the Padres in the Rule 5 draft in 2006. He became the club’s full-time closer midway through the 2007 season.

The Royals figure to have their young bullpen largely intact going into spring training, although some of the pieces may get a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation. Among them are All-Star right-hander Aaron Crow and young left-hander Everett Teaford.

Right-handers Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Blake Wood and Kelvin Herrera are expected back in the bullpen, along with left-hander Tim Collins.

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