KANSAS CITY -- Gil Meche, eyeing a bullpen job to avoid shoulder surgery, might be sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment before the end of August. That would put him in line to pitch in relief for Kansas City when rosters are expanded in September.
And Royals manager Ned Yost believes Meche, who has started 100 games in his four years with the club, could return in a relief role next year.
"We can maintain his shoulder issues in that role better than he can going out and pitching 100 pitches every fifth day. It lowers his workload and keeps him healthier," Yost said.
"That'll be a decision that we'll look at at the end of the year, but if I had to answer that today, probably, 'Yes.'"
As for this year, Yost sees Meche in the bullpen by September, for sure.
"In a case like that, you've got to protect him," Yost said. "You're trying to get him in a slot where he can start his own inning, you've kind of got a limited pitch count on him of 40 max, and you don't want to use him on back-to-back days.
"When you have those situations, you shorten your 'pen, so you've got to have protection, and September is the obvious choice. We'll have more arms up here, and we'll be able to pitch him under those circumstances and protect him."
Meche was especially impressive in a pregame workout on Sunday.
"He could be a force in our 'pen with his stuff and his fastball," Yost said. "He might be a guy who can work his way into the back of our bullpen."
Blanco adjusting to leadoff role with Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Gregor Blanco, the Royals' new center fielder, already has had some moments -- no more evident than a single, a bunt hit and three stolen bases in the first two innings of Friday night's game against the Yankees.
In Blanco's first 10 games since being obtained from the Braves, he swiped five bases in five attempts. There was one drawback; he was hitting .194 (7-for-36). Three of his hits were bunts.
"I've just got to find holes right now," Blanco said. "I think I'm having good at-bats. I've just got to keep working hard and I know it's going to be there."
It was there with Atlanta -- he batted .310 in 36 games.
Blanco has become the replacement for leadoff batter Scott Podsednik, who was swapped to the Dodgers.
"He's the same type [of] hitter where, I don't want to say he slashes the ball, but he's a guy that can drive the gaps and he can bunt. He can bunt better than [Podsednik] and he has a weapon there," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
"But Scotty was a veteran leadoff guy. He took pitches, he knew what to do when he got on first base, but Gregor is a guy that's just starting to come up a little bit. He has great abilities but he still has learning to do in understanding jumps and when to steal and how to steal.
"But he's got tremendous assets, and it's fun to take those guys that have that kind of ability and mold them and teach them to be the leadoff-type hitter he can be."
Basestealing requires a lot of study and Blanco is trying to hurry the process.
"You've got pick up what the pitcher is doing right away. So the more you can learn about a pitcher quickly is better," he said.
Blanco missed two games for the birth of his son, Gregor Jr., in Atlanta and, upon his return, missed half a game with heat exhaustion. But he's going full-tilt now and looking for hits.
"Once I find the holes, it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.
Bannister working on mechanics in bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- Brian Bannister's assignment from the rotation to the Royals' bullpen hasn't resulted in any game action, but he's still working on smoothing out his pitching mechanics.
"I'm just trying to work on the arm slot that will give me a little more depth and movement, just give me some of the break back to my pitches," Bannister said.
Bannister last pitched on Aug. 2 and has a 7-11 record and a 5.95 ERA. He doesn't know when he might return to the rotation.
"I have no idea," he said. "I think it's more important to get my stuff back."
Meantime, closer Joakim Soria need have no fear from Bannister.
"I'm not trying to take over Soria's job here," he quipped.
The Royals, through Sunday, had the most one-run games in the American League with 42. They'd won 19 and lost 23. Also, 61 of their 117 games were decided by two runs or less, or 53 percent, with a 28-33 record. ... Two left-handed pitchers acquired by the Royals prior to the Trade Deadline had impressive Minor League outings on Saturday night. Will Smith, who came from the Angels in the Alberto Callaspo trade, pitched seven shutout innings in Class A Wilmington's 11-0 win over Salem. Tim Collins, who came from the Braves in the Rick Ankiel-Kyle Farnsworth deal, worked two scoreless innings as Triple-A Omaha won at Sacramento, 5-4. That gives Collins 10 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts. ... The Royals, after playing 30 games in a 31-day stretch, have an open date on Monday before starting a home series against Cleveland. This is the first of five days off in the next five weeks.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.