Through five games — even with ace Zack Greinke's un-Zack-like outing Saturday — Royals starting pitchers boast a combined 2.51 ERA. And the rotation's highest-paid arm hasn't even thrown a pitch yet.
That will come today.
Gil Meche (bursitis in his pitching shoulder) remains on track to make his first start of the season in the series finale with the Boston Red Sox. It'll be his first regular-season start since Aug. 29, for that matter.
Needless to say, he's more than a little eager for the moment to come.
"I can't wait to wake up and actually know I'm pitching," Meche said.
Meche, who was 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA in an injury-plagued 2009 season, will oppose Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz. He expects to throw around 90-95 pitches.
"We'll keep him below 100 (pitches) probably, continue to watch and see how he's doing," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "We would err on the side of caution."
Meche, who started on opening day for the Royals the last three years, battled lower back problems and later a fatigued shoulder while being limited to 23 starts last season. He believes those issues are now behind him.
"I haven't felt this good (for) a game in a long time, so I'm definitely ready to go," he said Saturday afternoon. "Like I said, I feel good. And I'll be definitely amped up all day tomorrow. It's already starting to get that way."
Waiting patiently — Hillman said it has been important for him this first week to let his regulars find a groove early in the season.
As a result, spring training star Mitch Maier is still waiting for his first action while fellow spring standout Mike Aviles received his first at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Saturday.
"I want to get everybody involved," Hillman said. "But at the same time I want to give what we kind of set in our minds were going to be the regulars, I want to try to get these guys in a rhythm without wearing them out as much as we can."
Hillman said that he didn't yet have a lineup in mind for today, and he wasn't sure if he'd use the day game after a night game as an opportunity to rest any of his veterans or wait until the team's upcoming road trip.
"I'm just kind of taking it day to day," Hillman said before the game Saturday."... I want to keep Pods (leftfielder Scott Podsednik) as fresh as I can, so I'll probably run a check on him tonight and see how he's feeling. That would be a spot for Mitch to get an opportunity to get out there and show what he can do."
Maier batted .475 during spring training in 59 at-bats with three homers and a team-leading 19 RBI. Aviles hit .471 in 51 spring at-bats. And Brayan Pen~a, who batted .302 with a pair of homers in the spring, is also waiting for his first action.
"Obviously you want to get in there and play, but our guys have been doing well," Maier said. "Those are the starters. They've got to get their at-bats, and I'll wait till I get my opportunity. But right now those guys are doing great. And that's what we brought them here to do is play every day."
Farnsworth ailing — The encouragement of seeing embattled reliever Kyle Farnsworth come in for two quick outs and strand a pair of inherited runners in a pivotal seventh inning Friday night was followed by concern about a stiff shoulder.
"We felt like he shut it down at a good time, so we're encouraged by that," Hillman said Saturday. "He just described it as stiffness. It really stiffened up on him between innings."
Farnsworth wasn't scheduled to pick up a baseball Saturday and Hillman was unsure when the hard-throwing right-hander might be available to pitch.
"Hopefully we get good news on how his body responds today," Hillman said. "And hopefully we can get the ball back in his hands sooner than later."