KANSAS CITY -- It turns out that Royals manager Ned Yost is quite a recruiter. He helped snag relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton for the Royals by inviting him on a bow-hunting trip down in Georgia. How could Broxton resist? He hunts and fishes around his hometown of Waynesboro, Ga., just south of golf mecca Augusta, and here was Yost inviting him to chase deer around Jeff Foxworthy's place over at LaGrange. Yeah, that Jeff Foxworthy; the comedian is Yost's pal. And, hey, the Royals' Jeff Francoeur was coming along, too. Just some good ol' Georgia boys out huntin' whitetail and talkin' baseball. As Broxton tells it, this came at the height of the recruiting season, when he had 10 or 12 teams courting him. The Royals were among the first at his door, and so Yost said come on down.
"He just said there were no strings attached," Broxton recalled. "He just wanted me to come over just in case something did happen, we'd kind of know each other." What Broxton heard from Yost and Francoeur, he found interesting. "They kept saying how young they were and how competitive, and that's what I wanted to come to," Broxton said. "Going back to the Dodgers, we were young, too, when I was there, and we just basically went out and played with everything we had and made it to the playoffs." Francoeur, whom Broxton knew from their Georgia high school days, turned out to be a good salesman. "He was a pretty good part of me deciding to come here," Broxton said. He was telling this late Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, just after passing a physical examination that qualified him for the Royals' 40-man roster. To make room for him, the Royals designated infielder Jeff Bianchi for assignment. Bianchi hit .259 last season for Double-A Northeast Arkansas after missing 2010 because of elbow surgery. Broxton got a one-year, $4 million contract from the Royals. Even adding on $1 million in incentives, he still took a cut from the $7 million he made last season with the Dodgers. There's a reason for that. He was damaged goods, missing most of last season with elbow woes. But he's also repaired goods, having undergone arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 19 to remove what Broxton described as "two spurs and 30 loose bodies." He hasn't thrown a ball yet, but both Broxton and general manager Dayton Moore are convinced that he'll be just fine, back to throwing 100-mph fastballs and hard sliders. Nick Kenney, the Royals' head athletic trainer, was so impressed that he's delayed Broxton's return to throwing. Instead of starting this week, he'll start in about 15 days with the rest of the pitchers. "His physical today was outstanding and Nick was very, very pleased. We expect Jonathan to be back, ready to go, 100 percent," Moore said. Moore remembered that, as an Atlanta Braves official, he'd scouted Broxton as a high school player. "He's a fierce competitor, he loves to play, he's always had a lot of respect for the game, a lot of respect for people," Moore said. "He's someone I've admired personally for a long time." Moore reiterated that Broxton, who recorded 84 saves in his Dodgers days, would be a setup man for the Royals' incumbent closer, Joakim Soria. That's fine with Broxton. "If Ned needs me in the fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth -- it doesn't matter to me. Hopefully when I'm out there that means we're winning, so let me just say that," he said. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound right-hander pulled on Royals jersey No. 51 at a press gathering and allowed that, at 27 and after seven years in the Majors, he could be a positive influence on the Royals' young pitchers. That's what he tried to do for the Dodgers last year, even though he was out with his sore elbow. "I know I didn't pitch, but I stayed there for every game, every out and talked to some of those young guys in the back end of our bullpen and just tried to show 'em the ropes and lead 'em the right way," he said. Broxton emphasized that he thought he'd fit well in Kansas City. It all seemed to go back what he'd heard on that hunting trip. "That was a big part of my decision -- the way they talked about the Royals and how big of a family organization they are," he said. The baseball talk was good, but the hunters bagged just one whitetail, by Foxworthy's brother. Not long afterward, though, the Royals bagged Broxton.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.