KANSAS CITY -- Gil Meche is back in the Royals' rotation, at least tentatively, for Thursday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome.
Royals manager Trey Hillman made that decision on Sunday after hearing reports on Meche's injury rehabilitation start for Triple-A Omaha on Saturday night.
Hillman said that after Kyle Davies opens the series at Minnesota on Tuesday night, Brian Bannister will pitch on Wednesday night with Meche starting on Thursday. That means left-hander Bruce Chen, who gained his first Royals victory on Sunday, will be passed over and will pitch out of the bullpen. The Royals also will have to make a roster move to accommodate Meche's return.
Meche, who hasn't pitched since July 11 because of a lower back strain, went five innings for Omaha and gave up one run with three hits, three walks and two strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches, including 53 strikes, and got credit for the O-Royals' 8-4 victory over Las Vegas.
"He felt good, he didn't feel his back at all and the report was good on his stuff," Hillman said.
According to examiner.com, Meche's fastball velocity at Omaha topped out at 92 mph and was usually 90 to 91, a tick or two slower than normal.
But Omaha pitching coach Tom Burgmeier noted: "If he wanted to reach back and get it [93-94 mph], he could have done that. But he was trying to be smoother, throw more strikes, and he wasn't missing terribly with his fastball. But obviously, you'd like to see him throw more strikes with his fastball. But his breaking stuff -- he got that over the plate. His curve, slider, changeup were very good."
Hillman also cautioned reporters that the radar readings on the Kauffman Stadium board usually read high.
"You guys need to know this gun here is usually skewed," Hillman said. "This guy does not match up with the scouts' gun. It's usually two to three miles an hour off than what you see on the board."
So if Meche would throw a 92-mph fastball as clocked by a scout, it might read 94 on the scoreboard.
In another move, the Royals released right-hander Sidney Ponson. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 3 after compiling a 1-7 record and 7.36 ERA in 14 games (nine starts).
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.