Kansas City Royals add relief pitcher Taylor Clarke before MLB lockout begins

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One day after the Kansas City Royals created a roster spot by non-tendering reliever Richard Lovelady, who is on the mend from elbow surgery, they used that spot to add reliever Taylor Clarke.

Clarke, 28, signed a one-year contract with the Royals on Wednesday. Clarke’s deal will pay him $975,000 ($200,000 if he’s assigned to the minors), a source with knowledge of the deal told The Star.

A right-hander who’d previously pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Clarke became a free agent on Tuesday when the Diamondbacks non-tendered him.

The Diamondbacks reportedly expressed interest in signing Clarke to a minor-league contract, similar to how the Royals brought back Lovelady on Wednesday.

After the collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a lockout of the players. All transactions are frozen until the sides reach a new agreement.

Clarke, a third-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2015, features a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph this past season. He missed nearly two months this past season with a shoulder injury (right teres major strain).

He made his major-league debut in 2019, and 20 of his first 35 appearances came as a starting pitcher. He recorded at least one strikeout in each of his first 26 career relief appearances from April 20, 2019-April 30, 2021, a major-league record to begin a career according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In 78 career games (171 1/3 innings), Clarke has posted a 4.99 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP, .259 opponents’ batting average, 7.7 strikeouts per 9, and a 2.26-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Royals’ bullpen will likely be revamped in 2022.

Veteran relief pitcher Wade Davis announced his retirement. The Royals released former top draft pick Kyle Zimmer, who joined Greg Holland, Jesse Hahn and Ervin Santana as free agents who were part of the bullpen this past season.

Jakob Junis, who had pitched both in relief and in the rotation, is also free agent after having been designated for assignment.

The Royals augmented their bullpen last year with the in-season additions of Joel Payamps and Domingo Tapia.

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