Diekman happy to join Royals on 1-year deal

Nebraska native likes being close to home, direction of new club

February 14th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There were two principle reasons that left-hander loved the idea of signing with the Royals.

First, Diekman loves the direction the club is going with all of its young arms, and he feels he can be somewhat of a mentor. Second, geography.

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"[Kansas City] is 2 1/2 hours form home," Diekman said on his first day in camp after signing with the Royals on Wednesday night. "We have a four-month old little girl [Palmer] and it will help to be that close to home."

Diekman's home is just outside of Lincoln, Neb., and he confesses to being a huge Cornhuskers fan. And that makes him acutely aware, too, of how big Royals outfielder and Nebraska alum is in his home state.

"I know of Alex," Diekman said, "and he could run for governor in Nebraska and win."

Diekman signed a one-year deal for a guaranteed $2.75 million -- $2.25 million this season with a $500,000 buyout on a mutual option in 2020.

The Royals plan to use Diekman in high-leverage situations.

"It's another power arm," manager Ned Yost said of Diekman, who throws in the mid-90s and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings over his career. "We can use those strikeouts."

To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander was placed on the 60-day injured list after having UCL elbow repair surgery (not as severe as Tommy John) last August.

Diiekman, who turned 32 last month, posted a career-worst 4.73 ERA over 71 appearances between the Rangers and D-backs in 2018. But most of that damage came after he was traded to Arizona from Texas at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"I wasn't surprised I got traded," Diekman said. "I had two months left on my contract. But I think I had some mechanical issues when I got to Arizona. And it was stressful moving my wife, who was seven months pregnant, across the country."

Diekman posted a 3.69 ERA in 47 games with the Rangers, but he had a 7.53 ERA in 24 games with the D-backs.

"People will remember those Arizona numbers," Diekman said. "So I've got something to prove."

In many ways, Diekman is simply happy to be healthy again.

After years of suffering form ulcerative colitis, a long-term condition that results in inflammation in the colon and rectum, Diekman had surgery in 2017 and surgeons completely removed his colon. After numerous surgeries to reconstruct his intestines, Diekman came back to pitch again late that season.

"I feel amazing now," Diekman said. "I was probably a little too heavy last year at 228, but I've tried to get down to 210 or 212, and I feel good."

And having a new family has altered his mood as well.

"It has very much," Diekman said. "I know that no matter what, that little girl is not going to care if I give up a run. She's going to be just as happy to see me."