Meche gets official Opening Day nod

Meche gets official Opening Day nod

PHOENIX -- There's no doubt about it now. Gil Meche officially is the Royals' starting pitcher for Opening Day on March 31 in Detroit.

"He will be, as long as there's not a health issue, yeah," manager Trey Hillman said.

Meche looked strong and healthy as an ox on Saturday, as he pitched five innings, struck out eight and threw 86 pitches in an 8-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

All along, it was presumed that Meche, as the No. 1 starter, would be the Opening Day pitcher, but Hillman didn't seal the deal until after Saturday's game.

"I'm ready," Meche said. "I could've thrown 100-some pitches today. My arm felt good."

He'll get two more starts, both scheduled against the Seattle Mariners, in Spring Training.

Meche showed he was sharp by striking out Rickie Weeks, Gabe Gross and Prince Fielder in the first inning.

"That's the kind of start I needed," Meche said. "I've been feeling great, but I needed to go out there and repeat pitches."

"I was just upset about the fourth inning. I had some pitches where I could've put Fielder away, had him 2-2, couldn't make the pitch with the changeup and walked him, too."

Back-to-back walks to Gross and Fielder preceded a three-run homer by Corey Hart and two more singles before Meche shut down the threat.

"Other than that, I controlled the game as far where I wanted my pitches," he said, "My sequences were good, and my curveball was a lot better than it's been in camp so far, too."

Meche came back in the fifth inning and strike out Hart to end the outing.

"[Pitching coach Bob McClure] looked at me and said, 'Man, you had a lot left in your tank,'" Meche said. "I said, 'Well, Hart also hit a bomb and I was getting him back.'"

Starting candidate Hideo Nomo threw four innings for the Royals, including one that was unofficial because the game was extended to 10 innings so pitchers could get in work.

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Nomo gave up a three-run homer to J.J. Hardy and was charged with seven hits and five runs. But he also had seven strikeouts and no walks in the four innings.

"He misses bats and continues to get strikeouts," Hillman said. "It wasn't pretty in-between the strikeouts, because there was some contact.

"But the guy is a warrior. He takes a ball off his leg and doesn't even let us come out to check on him. He's still interesting because he misses bats, and we're getting to a point where we need to make some decisions."

Nomo is in a race for the fourth and fifth rotation spots with John Bale, Jorge De La Rosa, Kyle Davies, Brett Tomko and Luke Hochevar.

"I cannot decide whether I can make the Major League team or not," Nomo said through a translator, "but the Royals have been really nice to me and I'm really enjoying playing."

McClure said Nomo's velocity has improved in each outing as he makes a comeback bid at age 39.

"There are some guys making it very difficult right now," McClure said. "A lot of strike throwers, we've got guys that can throw two or three pitches, and their stuff is holding up for 70 or 75 pitches."

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