Gil Meche is ailing.
He began the year on the disabled list and hasn't come close to a quality start since being activated.
As a matter of fact, he's had a pretty rough go of it since manager Trey Hillman's infamous overuse of him last June.
In a span of three starts that month he threw 357 pitches, culminating in a 132-pitch complete game effort against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In his next start against the cross state rival St. Louis Cardinals, Meche only lasted 3.1 innings while surrendering nine earned runs; he would end up missing his next scheduled start and land on the disabled list in early July.
When Meche returned to the bump in August he clearly was not 100 percent and the Royals deactivated him by month's end, but everyone figured the competitive 31-year-old veteran would have himself back in shape come spring training 2010. Unfortunately, his ailments and lack of success have followed him into this season.
2010: 3 GS, 0-2, 12.2 IP, 19 H, 16 ER, 12:7 BB:K, 11.37 ERA, 2.45 WHIP
He is pressing to execute while it appears he is not currently able to physically perform at the level he once could.
Gil Meche currently requires a lighter workload so he can heal and hopefully return to his old self by the second half of the season.
In order for him to do this while the team maximizes upon his value, there are two options.
• Option No. 1: Try to limit Meche to an abnormally low pitch count (80 pitches per start as a rough estimate).
Hope: Meche becomes more efficient than he has been.
Risk: If Meche continues his struggles to get out of the third inning, he will tax an already anemic bullpen.
• Option No. 2: Move Meche to the bullpen
Hope: Meche can assist the feeble bullpen by eating up valuable innings while not draining them ever fifth day.
Risk: Meche's replacement in the rotation may not be any better and he he could fail in his new relief role.
Lou Pinella recently had a similar situation to deal with in Chicago. Club ace Carlos Zambrano was off to a terrible start—1-2, 7.40 ERA, 1.89 WHIP—and there had been trouble bridging the gap between starter and closer Carlos Marmol.
As a result, Sweet Lou moved his $91.5 million ace to the bullpen.
That is a very bold move to make this early in the season, but his decision has already begun to pay dividends as Zambrano went 1.1 innings to get the game to the ninth while earning his first hold in the Cubs win last Saturday.
It is likely that Zambrano's move to the pen is temporary; sometimes these short-term role changes are beneficial and assist a pitcher's return to form.
When Zack Greinke re-joined the Royals in 2007 after his brief hiatus to deal with social anxieties, the starting pitcher ended up in the bullpen after early season struggles. During his time in the pen, he was able to improve his off speed pitches and slowly regain his confidence.
And we all know how 2009 turned out for Cy Greinke.
Carlos Zambrano will eventually return to the rotation as Greinke did; Lou Pinella hopes it is with the same success and fanfare.
Since his status quo is unacceptable and this small market team needs to maximize the talent they have rostered, Trey Hillman should try this rehabilitation formula with Gil Meche.
After all, what does he have to lose?