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Sunday, January 20, 2008
Updated: January 21, 4:29 PM ET
Pitcher Tomko agrees to one-year, $3 million deal with Royals

By Jerry Crasnick

The Kansas City Royals reached agreement on a one-year, guaranteed $3 million contract with free-agent pitcher Brett Tomko.

Brett Tomko


The deal, officially announced Monday, includes an additional $1.5 million in incentives.

Tomko, 34, has a 93-92 record with a 4.62 ERA in 11 seasons with Cincinnati, Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 4-12 with a 5.55 ERA in 40 appearances as a starter and reliever for the Dodgers and Padres last season.

Tomko brings experience to a Kansas City rotation that includes Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke. Kyle Davies, Jorge De La Rosa, former No. 1 draft pick Luke Hochevar and John Bale will get looks in spring training, and the Royals have invited Brian Lawrence and Hideo Nomo to camp on minor league deals. The Royals also are hoping Luke Hudson will return from shoulder surgery in 2008.

"We like the power in his arm and the experience that he brings to a very young pitching staff," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "I think he blends in very well with the current group of pitchers we have on the roster."

The Royals pursued Japanese starter Hiroki Kuroda earlier this offseason but lost out to the Dodgers. Jon Lieber, another Kansas City target, signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs last week.

If Tomko doesn't start, he would join a bullpen that includes three left-handers: Jimmy Gobble, Ron Mahay and John Bale.

Tomko had 33 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings as a reliever with just seven walks.

"I've done both and I'm comfortable with both," Tomko said. "But that was one of the main things we talked about this winter. We talked with other [clubs] for bullpen and setup positions."

Oakland, Houston, Colorado, Washington and Cincinnati were among the clubs that expressed interest in Tomko as a free agent this winter. Some of the teams looked at Tomko as primarily a reliever.

In his worst stretch since breaking into the majors with Cincinnati in 1997, Tomko was 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA last year for Los Angeles. After being designated for assignment, he signed with San Diego and was 2-1 with a 4.61 ERA as the Padres competed for a playoff berth.

Changes he made in style and delivery at the urging of the Dodgers led to his problems.

"They asked me to try a couple of things. They wanted to see a little more movement, change my mechanics a little bit. I went into it with an open mind and thought I'd try whatever they asked."

At first, the changes looked good. He had 10 strikeouts in his first start.

"But over the next few starts, it wasn't working," he said. Soon, bad habits were formed and he could not escape a self-imposed rut.

"I got put in the bullpen and was mopping up games. It got worse and worse," he said.

Finally, he was cut and went home for 16 days.

"I revamped everything and tried to go back to what I was doing," he said.

Then he was signed by San Diego and with the Padres and went back to his old style.

"I watched film of those first five months and it didn't even look like me. I was topping out at 86-87 [mph]," he said. "But once I got back to the basics of what I'd been doing, my velocity jumped back to the mid-90s. I felt like a new person."

Moore said the Royals likely wouldn't make any more moves before the start of spring training in mid-February.

"As spring training evolves, I'm sure there will be more things that we try to do," Moore said. "But right now I look for us to be pretty much set as we go into spring training."

Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.