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Royals notebook | Meche slotted for rehab start

BALTIMORE | Gil Meche is heading to Class A Wilmington for a rehab start Sunday after reporting no day-after problems in his lower back following a three-inning simulated game Wednesday at Camden Yards.

“He’s feels pretty good,” manager Trey Hillman confirmed, “so we’re going to move forward. He is scheduled to pitch 55 to 65 pitches Sunday in Wilmington.

“It’s a day game. It’s close. He doesn’t have to get on an airplane to get there. It works out with their schedule.”

Meche is scheduled to return to Kansas City following his rehab start and work out Monday with physical therapist Jeff Blum before the club returns Tuesday after a four-game series at Tampa Bay.

“We’ll see him Tuesday,” Hillman said, “and re-slot him (in the rotation).”

Meche is 4-9 with a 4.50 ERA in 19 starts but hasn’t pitched since muscle spasms in the lower left side of his back limited him to 3 2/3 innings on July 11 at Boston. He had lost four straight decisions before going on the disabled list.

Wilmington is playing Salem, a Red Sox affiliate, at 12:35 p.m. on Sunday.

Rotation plans

Veteran lefty Bruce Chen will get at least one more chance to keep his spot in the rotation, after all. He will start Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay.

For now, Kyle Davies remains at Class AAA Omaha.

“We’re going stay in order with Chen,” Hillman said. “A lefty against Tampa Bay is a better matchup. They’re not as stealthy (against lefties) -- they’re still pretty good; everybody knows that.

“We’ll give Bruce another shot at it. He monitored the damage OK here. He obviously still needs to locate better and keep the ball in the ballpark.”

Chen is 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA but avoided a loss Monday for the first time in six starts when he allowed three runs and eight hits over five innings against the Orioles. He got a no-decision when the Royals rallied for a 5-3 victory.

Davies is scheduled to pitch for Omaha, where he is 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts since losing his job in the big-league rotation. He is scheduled to start Friday against Iowa.

“Statistics between there and here can sometimes be misleading,” Hillman said. “He has improved, but we still want to see him command the fastball better.”

Davies was 3-7 with a 5.76 ERA in 14 starts for the Royals prior to his June 20 demotion.

Catching plans

Hillman said he isn’t backing away from his stated intention to give increased playing time to catcher Brayan Peña despite starts Wednesday by Miguel Olivo and Thursday by John Buck.

“I’m still going to keep mixing and matching,” Hillman said, “but I want to see more of Brayan. He’s done a very respectable job defensively and almost always gives you good plate appearances.

“We’ll get BP back in the mix in Tampa.”

Minor details

Right-hander Tim Melville, one of the organization’s higher-regarded pitching prospects, seems to be rounding into form. He limited West Michigan to one run and four hits in five innings Wednesday in Class A Burlington’s 3-1 victory.

It marked the fourth time in five starts that Melville, 19, limited an opponent to one run or less. He settled for a no-decision but struck out eight, walked two and lowered his ERA to 3.92.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, is eight for 15 in his last five games since breaking out of a one-for-43 slump. His recent surge includes five extra-base hits. Moustakas, 20, went two for four Wednesday in Wilmington’s 2-1 victory at Lynchburg.

Looking back

It was 29 years ago Friday -- July 31, 1980 -- that George Brett completed a 42-for-85 month by going two for three in a 13-3 victory over the Red Sox at Royals Stadium. Brett’s torrid month raised his average to .390.

It was 10 years ago Friday -- July 31, 1999 -- that Jermaine Dye drove in five runs in a 12-8 victory at Texas. That boosted Dye’s total to 32 in July, which matched John Mayberry’s franchise record for the RBIs in one month. Mayberry had 32 in July 1975.

Etc.

The Royals are losing their vice president for sales and marketing. Mark Tilson, who filled that role since February 2007, is joining the NFL’s Miami Dolphins as their senior vice president for sale and ticket operations.

Yuniesky Betancourt broke a zero-for-21 skid when his slow roller to third base turned into a two-out single in the seventh inning. Betancourt is six for 46 since arriving in a July 10 trade from Seattle.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar limited Adam Jones to a single in the first inning. Jones had first-inning homers in each of the three previous games against Chen, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke.

Ryan Freel was the only starter for either team who didn’t have a hit. He went zero for four.

Lefty Ron Mahay lowered his ERA to 3.86 by working two scoreless innings. It hasn’t been that low since May 24.

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