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07/25/09 7:18 PM ET

Meche at least five days from returning

KC righty needs another side session before exiting DL

KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Trey Hillman still hasn't targeted a date for the return of injured right-hander Gil Meche.

Meche tested his injured lower left back with a bullpen session on Friday, and Hillman said Meche experienced no stiffness during or after the workout.

But it looks like Meche is at least five days away from returning.

"He needs another side session," Hillman said. "Yesterday was OK. He didn't have any back stiffness. It didn't stiffen up after he cooled down. But he still needs another side session before we know exactly when he might be back."

That side session will come on Sunday.

Meche, who went on the 15-day disabled list on July 18 -- retroactive to July 12 -- had hoped to make his return on Monday against Baltimore.

It appears that was wishful thinking on Meche's part.

Now it appears Meche won't return until the Tampa Bay series, which starts on Thursday at Tropicana Field.

It's likely that Meche will replace either Sidney Ponson or Bruce Chen in the rotation. Ponson is scheduled to pitch on Friday at Tampa Bay, while Chen's rotation spot would come the next night.

But first, Chen, who last pitched on Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader against the Angels, will start on Monday in Baltimore.

After a day off on Thursday, Hillman said the Royals considered moving Brian Bannister up to make the start on Monday, but Hillman said he preferred to keep the rotation's current order intact.

"It falls right in line with what we've been doing," Hillman said.

Hillman also gave an update on the status of injured outfielder Coco Crisp, who had a second reconstructive shoulder surgery -- this time on his left shoulder -- on July 21.

Crisp had a similar procedure on his right rotator cuff on June 24.

"I talked to Coco the other day," Hillman said. "He's rehabbing in California."

Hillman said Crisp, who makes his home in Southern California, will likely return to Alabama in the coming weeks to be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews, who performed both surgeries.

Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.