SURPRISE, Ariz. – There is a long and storied history to baseball nicknames, from Ted Williams (the Splendid Splinter) to Randy Johnson (the Big Unit) to Babe Ruth (the Sultan of Swat).
Kansas City closer Joakim Soria has a nickname he wants no part of.
The Royals pitcher said that "The Mexicutioner" has a negative connotation and is a particularly jarring choice given the drug violence racking his homeland. He is from Monclova in the northern state of Coahuila.
"It's been really bad in Mexico right now," Soria said Wednesday. "There are a lot of guns in Mexico. It's out of control right now.
"If I can change the mindset of the people, change the nickname or just take it out. It's not a big deal. I think it's a smart move. I think about my people."
The 26-year-old Soria saved 43 games in 46 opportunities last season and for the second time in two years was selected to the All-Star game.
The nickname originated in 2008 when Soria saved 42 games and "The Mexicutioner" T-shirts were sold in Kansas City. Soria did not shy away from the nickname in the beginning, but with the increased violence in Mexico wants to shed it this season.
Soria pointed out that Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, two of the best closers in history, have no nicknames. He said he has no preference for a new nickname. "His Mexcellency" was one suggestion.
"I don't really care about nicknames," Soria said. "I'm not the type of guy that thinks too much about it. I'm open-minded about anything. I don't really want to choose one. If it stays Joakim Soria, fine. I don't really care. But I just want to change that name because it's bad right now for Mexico. This type of thing my nickname — I try to be a positive thing."
While Soria will finish games, the Kansas City bullpen is going through a makeover. Manager Ned Yost said Soria and Robinson Tejeda are the only sure bets for the bullpen, leaving five jobs up for grabs in spring training.
"There's a lot of competition for spots in the bullpen," Soria said. "It's good for us to have a lot of choices. I'm the one in the closer's spot. I like to be there."
Soria set a Royals record last season by converting 36 saves in a row from May 13-Sept. 30 before blowing a save in the final game of the season, Oct. 3 against Tampa Bay. He also set a Royals relief record with 23 scoreless innings.
Soria logged his 100th save on May 26, becoming the sixth youngest pitcher to reach that milestone.
"It's good for my career, but those are just numbers," Soria said. "If all that stuff comes together, it means I'm doing something right."
NOTES: Rookie LHP Everett Teaford, who had his pickup truck stolen outside of a Peoria, Ariz., restaurant earlier in the week, said police found the vehicle Wednesday in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson, compeletly stripped. "The cop said the best we could hope for is they got bit by a rattlesnake while they were out there stripping it," Teaford said. ... The Royals have controlled intrasquad games scheduled Thursday and Friday. Yost said pitchers would be limited to 20 pitches.