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Soria signs two-year contract with Rangers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Joakim Soria said the Royals did not come close to matching the Texas offer that convinced him to sign with the Rangers on Tuesday.

Soria joined the Rangers for a two-year, $8-million contract that also includes a club option for 2015. The deal was announced after Soria underwent a physical examination in Arlington, Texas.

The Royals attempted to work out a new deal with Soria after they declined to exercise the $8 million option they held on his 2013 contract because he'd undergone elbow surgery.

"They talked to me and their offer was not even close to what I was looking for, and we decided to go to free agency," Soria said.

However, Soria holds Kansas City and the Royals in high regard.

"I want to say thank you to all the Kansas City fans. That was my home for six years and I was proud and glad to be in the Royal family," he said.

In the last two years the Royals have developed an effective bullpen built around young, strong arms. One of those pitchers, right-hander Greg Holland, took over as the Royals' closer in the second half last season.

"I know the Royals, they're going a different way. They've got a young group and they believe it's a good group, and I believe that, too," Soria said. "There are great guys in there and I think the needs of the team were different ... that's why I chose to go to free agency and see what was for me there."

Soria won't be the Rangers' closer. That job belongs to Joe Nathan and, at any rate, Soria is coming off Tommy John surgery and won't be ready to pitch until well after the season starts. And then, if he's healthy, he'll function as a setup man for Nathan.

"I believe that we're going to be ready by the end of the May, maybe," Soria said. "We'll see how it goes first. I'm feeling good so far and we'll see how it goes the next two months."

Soria underwent his second elbow reconstruction surgery on April 3. He'd gone through a subpar 2011 season and had problems during Spring Training. This time around his recovery is going much smoother.

"Oh, yeah, it's way easier. The first Tommy John was in '03 and this is nine years after the first surgery," Soria said. "But after the first surgery, I was with the Dodgers and I ended up rehabbing myself in Mexico at one of the clinics they have over there. But it's not like the treatment they have here, so I believe with all the rehab that I have here it's going to be easier for my arm to get back."

He missed the entire 2012 season but, in his six active years, Soria piled up 160 saves for the Royals. At his best, he was virtually unhittable. He gave the team late-inning reliability that they hadn't had since Jeff Montgomery retired after the 1999 season.

Being a closer who was often compared to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera was the essence of his career. So why did Soria opt for a setup role with Texas instead of going elsewhere?

"I've got my house in Arizona, Spring Training is in Arizona. I'm a family guy and my parents live close to Texas," he said. "Obviously, we've got a great team over there and I think we can win the World Series. That's one of the main reasons I chose Texas instead of other teams."

At Spring Training, all Soria has to do is switch clubhouses because the Royals and Rangers share a complex in Surprise, Ariz.

In addition, his parents often came to Arlington from their Monclova, Mexico, home when the Royals played at Texas and he seemed comfortable there.

"Yeah, it made my decision way easier," he said. "Obviously it was a place where I can meet my family and we can be together, and it was way better for me."

The Rangers were completely satisfied with their doctor's evaluation of Soria.

"We got a great review on his physical," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously eight months off surgery, he's still got a ways to go, but it was as good of a review as we could possibly get."

Soria is currently throwing off flat ground and the Rangers aren't sure when he'll be able to go off the mound. But if he realizes his goal of being ready to pitch for the Rangers by the end of May, it could be interesting.

The Royals start a three-game series at Texas on May 31.

Kansas City Royals, Joakim Soria