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Mahay signs two-year deal with Royals

Mahay signs two-year deal with Royals

Free agent reliever Ron Mahay was working out near his Litchfield Park, Ariz., home Wednesday morning, unaware of the whirlwind experience that awaited him.

A phone call from agent Lonnie Cooper came with word that the Royals were interested in Mahay.

"It just took off from there," said Mahay, who was actually training at the Surprise, Ariz., facilities shared by the Royals and Rangers. "It's been a great day and a half. I've been smiling ever since."

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By early Thursday afternoon, Mahay had passed a physical and the deal was finalized. He signed a two-year contract with Kansas City, worth a reported $8 million.

While everything came together briskly, the Royals' interest in Mahay goes back months, since just after the season ended.

"He was one of the guys we identified early on in our front office meetings with our Major League staff ... as somebody that could impact our bullpen," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.

Seeking both rotation and bullpen help this winter, the Royals unsuccessfully pursued Hiroki Kuroda. The Japanese right-hander signed a three-year deal on Saturday with the Dodgers.

"We were pursuing very high-priced starting pitching and because of that, we didn't have the flexibility to work on the starting pitcher and relief pitcher fronts at the same time," Moore said. "Now that some of the other guys have signed, we felt the need to move rather quickly on Ron. We moved fast and very aggressive."

With the Rangers and Braves in 2007, Mahay was a combined 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 58 games. He had 37 walks and 55 strikeouts in 67 innings. Opponents batted .218 (52-for-238) against him while lefties had a .189 (20-for-106) average.

A veteran of 11 seasons with six teams, Mahay owns a 3.87 ERA over 367 Major League games with the Red Sox (1997-98), A's (1999-2000), Marlins (2000), Cubs (2001-02), Rangers (2003-07) and Braves (2007).

"As I get older, I get better -- knock on wood," Mahay said. "Hopefully, I can bring that here too."

Mostly a situational reliever in the late innings during his career, Mahay said that he was flexible to work in any situation. Moore, and new Royals manager Trey Hillman, appeared to keep their new pitcher's role fluid as well.

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"He's not necessarily a situational guy," Moore said. "Trey and I are on the same page in regards to our bullpen guys. We want as many people as possible that can work multiple innings and not just face one batter. The seventh and eighth innings evolve. I won't say this guy will be used in the seventh and that guy will get the eighth. Two weeks into the season, it could be all different."

Mahay joins a Kansas City roster loaded with young players and pitchers. At 36, he will be one of the few veterans on the staff.

"I'll be there for them," Mahay said of the younger players. "They can come to me any time. I'm sure I'll be able to give them some kinds of pointers whether they want to hear them or not. Hopefully, they will come to me. That would be a good thing."

The Kansas City bullpen features two other lefties in Jimmy Gobble and Neal Musser. Now it will have another southpaw.

"The way we're set up playing in the American League Central, the more left-handers in the bullpen, the better," Moore said.

Moore's offseason work isn't done. He plans to continue trying to bring in a starting pitcher, but said he was happy with the pitchers he already had competing for rotation spots.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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