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Soria ready to embrace seventh-inning role

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ANAHEIM -- Joakim Soria was sitting through a rain delay at Yankee Stadium when Rangers general manager Jon Daniels asked for him.

"In the middle of the rain delay, they called me back to the office and told me what was going on," Soria said. "It wasn't official at the time, but it was almost done."

Less than 24 hours later, he was not only on the opposite coast of the U.S., but the other end of the standings. The way the Tigers' bullpen shakes out, he'll be on the other end of late-inning lead protection, likely handling the seventh instead of the ninth.

The plan for now is for Soria to pitch the seventh inning when the bullpen is at full strength, filling in for the eighth or ninth innings on days when Joba Chamberlain or Joe Nathan are off.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make his team win the most games it can," Soria said on Thursday afternoon before the Tigers' matchup at Angel Stadium. "I'm able to whatever they want me to do. My goal is to win the World Series."

That flexibility doesn't surprise those who have played with him.

"He's one of the best teammates I've had," said Ian Kinsler, who along with Nathan played with Soria in Texas last year. "He loves having the ball. He's very competitive. There's nothing negative about him."

Nathan, whose old job Soria filled in Texas, echoed that.

"He's a good guy for the young guys to learn from," Nathan said. "But along with that, he also is a gamer. He's a winner. He wants the baseball, not afraid to go out there."

It's that camaraderie that keeps the bullpen setup going, despite the instant, reasonable thought that Soria could take over the closer's role if Nathan has another bout of struggles.

"I never see it as a threat. He's a teammate," Nathan said. "It's another great arm that we brought over here to get big outs. That can never be a threat. If anything, hopefully we all go out there and start pitching well. I think things happen like that out in the pen. Bringing a guy like this over, it's sometimes contagious, just kind of shakes things up. It could make a world of a difference."

It shakes up Soria's world, at least.

"I'm really grateful for Texas, because they helped me when I was hurt," said Soria, whose comeback from Tommy John surgery came with Texas last year. "I'm always a loyal guy, and now that it's happened, I'm happy. This is something different in my career. This is the first time this has happened to me, and I hope to fit well and we go to the playoffs and World Series."

Soria saw plenty of Detroit when he was the Royals' closer from 2007-11. Fifteen of his 177 career saves came against Detroit, all during a four-year stretch in which he allowed just two runs on 17 hits over 25 2/3 innings with 30 strikeouts.

He had heard trade rumors, but had tuned it out.

"It's a great team," Soria said. "It was always tough to face Detroit. Now that I'm with them, I'm kind of relieved."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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