"Last year, I sat out and it's something I've never done. I had all summer to myself for the first time since high school," Penny said. "At the same time, it's fun, but your mind drifts back and you miss that competition. I think right now if I wait any longer, I'm not going to be able to do it again so why not try?"
Penny, 35, was in his workout togs and came up from the Kauffman Stadium basement to spend a few minutes with reporters on Friday. The day before, the Royals announced they'd signed Penny to a Minor League contract for 2014. That puts him in position to bid for a Major League rotation job, perhaps his last chance.
Penny spent 4 1/2 seasons with the Marlins and 4 1/2 seasons with the Dodgers before dividing four years between the Red Sox, Giants, Cardinals and Tigers. He'd run up a career record of 119-100 in 341 games. But, he took last year off with a right arm that needed rest.
"Just tired, dead," Penny said.
But Penny stayed in shape and began throwing again after settling in the Kansas City area. Royals general manager Dayton Moore sent some of his trusted aides to assess Penny.
"Mike Arbuckle and Gene Watson and J.J. Picollo went and saw Penny throw and said he looked all right, looked free and easy and commanded the ball," Moore said. "Of course, it was an indoor workout, but he's got a track record and history so we signed him to a Minor League deal."
Penny said other clubs had showed interest but the Kansas City offer was appealing.
"Fortunately, it worked out this way for me. I got married in August and Kansas City is kind of in-between her family and my family so we decided to move here. It's close to both families and we've got a baby on the way," Penny said.
His bride's name is Kaci and now he's playing for KC. Kind of poetic.
"She said the same thing," Penny said.
From Broken Arrow, Okla., Penny met the former Kaci Cook when she was an Oklahoma City Thunder cheerleader and dancer. Her family is from Hays, Kan.
"They're huge Royals fans. All year they're all over me -- 'You've got to talk to the Royals, they're going to make the playoffs,'" Penny said.
Penny thinks the Cook family is onto something with the Royals.
"[They're] really close," he said. "If you look at us in Florida in 2003, I mean we weren't as good as the Royals were last year in 2002. And we won a World Series the next year. It takes a lot -- everybody's got to stay healthy, everybody's got to have a good year, but you guys have the players to do it."
Penny won two games in that 2003 World Series victory over the Yankees.
The years zipped by. Traded to the Dodgers in 2004, he started the 2006 All-Star Game, went 16-9 that year and reached the playoffs. Penny was also in the 2011 postseason with the Tigers after posting an 11-11 record. In 2012, his last active season, he pitched 22 games for the eventual World Series champion Giants but wasn't in the postseason.
Now Penny would like shot at it with the Royals.
"Just looking, I don't think there's a better spot for me," he said. "I really think if I'm healthy I'm going to come out and pitch in the big leagues. That's my goal and that's why I put a uniform on -- to win. Last year, this team was pretty good and they're really close to making the playoffs. So hopefully I'm going to bust my butt, go out there and help them get to the playoffs."
Penny is prepared to be patient about returning to the Majors.
"I'm not opposed, if I'm not ready yet, to go pitch in Omaha," he said. "I want to be sure, if I do take the mound, that I'm 100 percent, ready to go."
Penny expects to find out in Spring Training.
"I need to prove to myself I can get big league hitters out or I'm not going to play," he said.