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01/16/12 2:51 PM EST

Royals agree to one-year contract with Pena

Catcher avoids arbitration, likely to back up Perez in 2012

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals and catcher Brayan Pena agreed to a one-year contract for 2012 on Monday, avoiding salary arbitration.

The deal was for $875,000. Pena earned $660,000 in 2011 when he batted .248 in 72 games, including 57 starts.

Pena, who turned 30 on Jan. 7, is expected to be a backup catcher this season to Salvador Perez, who emerged as the regular when called up last August. Pena, though, will get competition from Manny Pina.

Sharing the catching early last season with Matt Treanor, Pena made needed improvements in his defense in manager Ned Yost's assessment. He threw out 36 percent of would-be basestealers (27-for-75) and pitchers had a 4.49 ERA when he was catching.

A switch-hitter, Pena drove in 24 runs and had three homers, oddly enough all three-run shots against the Texas Rangers at Arlington. Two came in losses, but on May 27 his blast was the third homer in the 14th inning against Dave Bush in the Royals' 12-7 victory.

Pena is the first of seven arbitration-eligible Royals to reach an agreement. The other arbitration-eligible players are outfielders Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier, infielder Chris Getz and pitchers Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez and Felipe Paulino.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.