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Pena family once again represented in KC

Royals sign catcher Francisco Pena, son of their ex-manager, to deal

KANSAS CITY -- Another member of the Tony Pena family is joining the Royals.

Catcher Francisco Pena, son of former Kansas City manager Tony Pena and brother of former Royals player Tony Pena Jr., has signed a Major League contract with the organization and was added to the 40-man roster, the club announced Sunday. He was a Minor League free agent.

Pena, 24, has spent his seven-year career in the Mets' farm system and divided last year between Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton. In 68 games for Las Vegas, he batted .257 with 15 doubles, nine homers and 39 RBIs. He caught 57 games, making just four errors and throwing out 15 of 50 runners on base-stealing attempts.

Also known as "Frankie," Pena is a right-handed hitter who batted .236 in 593 Minor League games for the Mets with 40 homers and 243 RBIs.

"We've got a long history with him, from the time he was an amateur and signed with the Mets," said J.J. Picollo, Royals assistant general manager-scouting and player development. "Most recently, he had played on that [Dominican World Baseball Classic] team and we got a look at him there and throughout his Minor League career.

"He's currently playing in the Dominican Winter League and he's really catching exceptionally well. He's got a good feel for the game, he's a smart kid. Defensively, we think he's well above average and offensively he's put up some solid numbers. And he's still young."

His father Tony was a former catcher who managed the Royals in 2002-05, compiling a 198-285 record before resigning in May 2005. Before this year, Pena's 2003 team had the Royals' only winning record (83-79) since 1994. He has been the Yankees' bench coach for the last five years.

Tony Pena Jr. was the Royals' regular shortstop in 2007, batting .267, but then went to a utility role for the next two years and decided to become a pitcher. This year, he posted a 5-8 record in 33 games (nine starts) for the White Sox's Triple-A club at Charlotte.

Tony Jr., called "T.J.," and Frankie are teammates on the Aguilas team in the Dominican.

"[I was] just down there last week and it was kind of funny watching T.J. close a game out pitching to his brother," Picollo said.

Pena becomes the fourth catcher on the Royals' 40-man roster, joining All-Star Salvador Perez, backup George Kottaras and Brett Hayes.

"He's been at Triple-A so we're putting him on the roster. He's somebody we expect to compete at the Major League level here in the near future," Picollo said.

At about 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Picollo compared him in size with former Royals catcher John Buck.

"He can throw, blocks well, receives well, he's pretty aggressive in using his arm," Picollo said. "We got a chance to see him a bunch in winter ball this year and he's picked a couple guys off first base. He's throwing the ball well according to all the guys that have seen him."

With 39 players on the roster, the Royals and other clubs have an 11 p.m. CT deadline on Wednesday to decide which Minor Leaguers they want to protect from possibly being taken in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings.

"Right now, as we stand, we've only got one roster spot available and we're going in meetings [Monday] to try to sort through this for the next couple days," Picollo said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals