SURPRISE, Ariz. — Jorge Soler has made six trips to the disabled list since leaving Cuba and signing a nine-year, $30 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Dealt in December to Kansas City for Royals closer Wade Davis, the outfielder hopes to show his new team he can stay healthy.
“It’s very important for him to prove he can play every day,” catching coach Pedro Grifol said as he translated for Soler. “That’s why he’s working hard in the field. That’s why he’s working hard in the training room to make sure he doesn’t have any injury.”
Soler turns 25 Saturday, when the Royals play their first exhibition game. He hit .239 with 27 home runs and 99 RBIs in 211 games over three seasons with the Cubs, with 31 walks and 211 strikeouts in 765 plate appearances.
“If he hits it, it goes,” said Royals pitcher Travis Wood, Soler’s teammate in Chicago. “I love Jorge. He’s a good kid. He’s here to work. He’ll do pretty much anything you ask him to. I think we’ve yet to begin to see all the greatness that he can bring.”
Soler hit .292 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 24 games with the Cubs in 2014, his first major league experience. His career has been interrupted by a left calf strain, left ankle sprain, left hamstring pull and left oblique pull.
He pulled his hamstring running to first base on June 6 last season and did not return until Aug. 5. He finished with a .238 average, 12 homers and 31 RBIs in 264 plate appearances, and was 2 for 16 with no RBIs in the postseason.
Soler, who is projected to start in right field, is considered a below-average defender with an above-average arm. Royals coach Rusty Kuntz has been working with Soler on defense.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Kuntz said after Tuesday’s drills. “He’s getting comfortable around the guys. You can see that big smile and energy every day. He wants to work. He’s like a sponge so far. Everything we’ve asked him to do after a couple of reps, he’s been able to do it.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him, of where he’s started and where’s he’s at right now. Once the games start, it’s a different animal. You’ll see how he reads the ball off the bat. He seems to have a very good depth perception, so he should be able to see the ball off the bat. Now we’re working on his footwork, so he can track it and increase his range a little bit.”