Tomko said he spoke with several teams and chose the Padres because he lives in suburban Poway.
"It came down to here and -- people will think I'm crazy -- the Yankees," Tomko said before the Padres played the Seattle Mariners. "It definitely was enticing, but like I told them, it's nice to be home. I mean, to be able to pitch at home is always a great thing."
The Padres went into Friday night's game in last place in the NL West, 8½ games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and 16 games under .500. The Yankees, by comparison, were third in the AL East, 5½ games behind the Boston Red Sox and six games over .500.
This is Tomko's third stint with the Padres. He pitched for San Diego in 2002 and rejoined them for the stretch drive last year. He made a shaky start on the last day of the regular season, an 11-6 loss at Milwaukee. That forced San Diego to play a wild-card tiebreaker game at Colorado the next night, which the Rockies won in 13 innings to reach the playoffs.
Tomko was 2-1 with a 4.61 ERA in seven appearances with the Padres last year, including four starts. Before that, he was 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
When the Padres offered the so-called San Diego Discount in the offseason, Tomko took the Royals' much bigger offer of $3 million. He was 2-7 with a 6.97 earned run average in 16 games with Kansas City, including 10 starts. Opponents hit .314 off him, and he was designated for assignment on June 12.
"It was an unfortunate situation in Kansas City," he said. "It was a good opportunity. I was hot and cold there and they were young and they wanted to start developing people and I was kind of the odd man out. It's nice to back."
The Padres will owe him a prorated share of the $390,000 minimum.
"He gives us a little versatility," general manager Kevin Towers said. "He can go long relief, short relief, spot start. We felt we needed that."
Towers said pitching at spacious Petco Park will probably be better for Tomko.
"He's prone to giving up some home runs here and there but still has velocity and still pounds the strike zone," Towers said. "He certainly knows the division and knows the people in the clubhouse."
To make room, left-handed reliever Justin Hampson was optioned to Triple-A Portland.
Also Friday, catcher Colt Morton was outrighted to Double-A San Antonio to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.