Chen to make start in place of Meche

Chen to make start in place of Meche

BALTIMORE -- OK, the Royals' pitching is set for the weekend -- Bruce Chen will start on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays and Gil Meche will start on Sunday against the Salem Red Sox.

The Salem Red Sox?

Yep, Meche will join the Class A Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks and face the Red Sox farm club from Salem, Va., in what figures to be his only injury rehabilitation start.

Chen was put back in the Kansas City rotation for the second game of the Tampa Bay series. The Saturday slot had been listed as "TBD." but the Royals determined on Thursday that it would be Chen for his seventh start since being called up from Triple-A Omaha.

Meche threw more than 50 pitches in a simulated-game situation in the bullpen on Wednesday and reported his back, which put him on the disabled list, was feeling fine on Thursday morning.

"The last two or three days it's been better where I could actually stretch out normally just as easy as touching my toes -- I couldn't do that for about 10 days and put pressure on my back or anything," Meche said.

His trip to Wilmington will mark his first game in the Minors since 2004.

"That's probably the best route to go," Meche said.

Meche is scheduled to throw 55 to 65 pitches, maybe more, for Wilmington.

"Yeah, I want to pitch here [for KC], but in a way, I don't want to do that here because if I go [just] four or five innings, the bullpen's going to have to eat up innings that day," Meche said. "I want to make sure I can have a normal start to where I could go six or maybe seven innings with like 85 or 90 pitches."

Meche will go to Wilmington from Baltimore, where the Royals were completing a four-game series Thursday.

"It's a day game, it's close and he doesn't have to get on a plane to get there," manager Trey Hillman explained. "It works out with their schedule and, if all goes well with that, he'll just fly back to Kansas City and have a day to work out there with [physical therapist] Jeff Blum, and we'll see him on Tuesday and he'll be re-slotted."

Meche, by the way, will be pitching against a Red Sox farm club that has ex-Royals second baseman Carlos Febles as its hitting coach.

Chen, 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA, gets another chance because the Royals opted not to recall right-hander Kyle Davies from Triple-A Omaha.

"We still want [Davies] to continue to work on his command of the fastball," Hillman said.

There was another reason, too, for going with Chen.

"A lefty against Tampa Bay is a better matchup. They're not as stealth," Hillman said.

Translation: With left-hander Chen on the mound, the Rays' swifties are less likely to get a big lead and jump in stolen-base attempts.

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