Royals introduce Meche to KC
Newest ace vows to nurture club's younger starting pitchers
KANSAS CITY -- This is a new deal for Gil Meche -- something he'd never had to do for the Seattle Mariners. It helps explain why signing with the Royals appealed to him.
"The challenge that was ahead of me was something I never really felt in Seattle, coming into an organization and trying to step up as one of the top pitchers on a staff and trying to carry the starting five," Meche said at a Kauffman Stadium press conference on Wednesday that introduced him as a member of the Royals.
Ah, yes, come bearing broad shoulders, my son.
"This guy is a difference-maker," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He is a potential No. 1 starter in our minds."
At Seattle, Meche really didn't have to be much concerned about that. Jamie Moyer was always around.
Moyer, of course, used his wise old head to do more than just win games.
"Jamie Moyer showed me a knuckle-curveball one day, and the next day, I actually pitched with it in a game, and that's what I've had the last two or three seasons," Meche said.
There you go -- some fatherly advice for the kid. Now, at 28, Meche will be expected to dispense some knowledge.
"I think I have the experience -- six years in the big leagues. I've been through a lot of different adversities as far as surgeries, and I just feel like I could help a lot of young guys just coming up -- giving them little hints and tips to help them out," he said.
But the kids won't listen too closely unless Meche wins some games. So far, he has a modest 55 Major League victories, but 11 last year and 10 the year before. He's gaining on it.
Meche, according to Moore, had the best stuff of any pitcher on the free-agent market. Even so, some published scouting reports wonder if Meche trusts his stuff, as the old saying goes.
"I have some really good stuff I'm working with on the mound," he said. "My confidence is there. The last three years, my curveball has been one of the pitches I can go to and I don't really get in trouble with it," Meche said.
"I'm not going to back away from anybody. Sometimes, the walks might not look that way, but I just go out there and be as fierce as I can."
True enough, Meche does have fits of intemperate baseball placement upon occasion -- too many walks setting up potential runs.
Well, there's something to work on.
Meche's progress was interrupted for two seasons, 2001-02, because of surgical procedures. But he got into most of six seasons for the Mariners in a pro career that began when he was a mere 17 years old.
So he's absorbed some knowledge along the way. He knew enough, for example, to assess that his career wasn't exactly soaring last year in Seattle.
"Halfway through the season, it felt like a situation I didn't feel I was going to go back to. I felt like I needed a change. I felt like, in the last couple of years in Seattle, I just wasn't improving," he said.
"Changing teams can be a good thing or a bad thing. So hopefully, I'll take the good road, have a lot of fun in Kansas City and we'll turn this organization around."
The Royals took him on with a five-year, $55-million contract -- figures that mesh with his uniform number, 55. He liked more than the money, though.
"Pitching against this team last year and seeing the young guys that they had, it just looked like an exciting team," Meche said.
"Some of the prospects that are coming up in Spring Training -- I hear big words about this [Alex] Gordon kid at third base. I just see a good direction that this team is going to take."
And manager Buddy Bell has heard good things about his new pitcher.
"One of his ex-teammates is my son, so there's a resource there. He doesn't lie to me, or he's not allowed to, anyway," Bell said.
David Bell gave his dad a thumbs-up.
Meche expressed confidence.
"I can tell you, I give it everything I have," he said.
And Buddy Bell was asked on a December morning who he envisioned as his starting pitcher on April 2 against the Boston Red Sox.
"I've got an idea, but we'll wait on that," Bell said, grinning.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.