KANSAS CITY -- Gil Meche hasn't even started his new career as a relief pitcher this year. Even so, he was asked if he envisioned himself in a bullpen role next year.
"Ninety-five percent, yeah," he said. "I mean, we've been at this for two years trying to start and my shoulder just doesn't recover [from] throwing 90 pitches in five days. So needing to be my best as a starting pitcher isn't going to work."
Meche will be in the last year of his five-year, $55-million contract in 2011. He's decided to skip shoulder surgery which would have knocked him out of pitching entirely next year.
He feels, though, he can pitch in relief and he's due to get his first test with one inning on Saturday night for Triple-A Omaha against Memphis up the highway in Nebraska.
"I'll be there all next week," Meche said. "I'm looking forward to it, I can't wait to get there, get in a game, let it go and see what happens."
Royals manager Ned Yost said Meche is scheduled to have a pitch limit of about 25. Then he'll make another outing of two innings or about 35 pitches, then a third at about 40 pitches.
"I want to get him built up for 40 pitches," Yost said. "I doubt if I'd ever use him for three innings but we're kind of shooting for two innings and have him built up for that."
Meche will pitch in the fifth inning or later for Omaha and always begin at the top of an inning. If all goes well and on schedule, he would pitch a final time on Aug. 31 and then go into the Kansas City bullpen.
"You can envision him pitching in the seventh or eighth inning once he gets settled into the role, but we'll just have to see how that all plays out," Yost said.
Meche is encouraged by several factors: His curveball of old is back, he's throwing all of his pitches, there's been no shoulder inflammation or fatigue, and he's not on any medication. He's ready for life in the bullpen.
"It's just something I wanted to do and I'm having as much fun as I can with it," Meche said.