KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Gilbert De La Vara is headed back to the Royals, who accepted the Astros' offer to take back the Rule 5 Draft pick.

After De La Vara, 24, cleared waivers, general manager Ed Wade offered him back to the Royals for $25,000, half of what the Astros paid when they selected him during the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings last December.

The left-handed De La Vara was competing for a spot in the bullpen already occupied by Wesley Wright and Tim Byrdak. Over eight games, De La Vara allowed nine earned runs in 9 2/3 innings for an 8.38 ERA.

"He fared pretty well here," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I thought he threw the ball just fine. We have two left-handers, and he was vying to be a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.

"Both those guys pitched pretty well for us. They would have had to almost fall on their faces for [De La Vara to win a job].

"I'm glad I had a chance to see him, because I like what I saw out of that kid. He can pitch at the big league level. It was a numbers thing here and it was hard to keep him."