Gil Meche against Jeff Weaver: That's the pitching matchup tonight in the second game of the Royals-Mariners series. Critics say it's also a prime exhibit of how free-agent salaries got out of control last winter.
Meche, who had been a career Mariner, signed a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract with Kansas City. Weaver got $8.3 million for one year.
Chatting amiably in the Royals clubhouse Friday, Meche shrugged and said he tunes out the clatter about his big contract.
"That's [the money] not why I play," he said. "To me, it's about the competition. I try to go and beat incredible hitters. I try not to look at the money in any way."
Mariners five-game planner
Today | vs. Kansas City, 6:05 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's RHP Jeff Weaver (0-3, 13.91) vs. RHP Gil Meche (1-1, 2.55).
Sunday | vs. Kansas City, 1:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Cha Seung Baek (0-0, 8.31) vs. RHP Brian Bannister (0-0, 6.23).
Tuesday | vs. White Sox, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's LHP Jarrod Washburn (1-2, 2.96) vs. RHP Javier Vazquez (2-0, 3.75).
Wednesday | vs. White Sox, 12:35 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Miguel Batista (2-2, 7.54) vs. LHP John Danks (0-3, 5.32)
Thursday | @ Boston, 4:05 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's LHP Horacio Ramirez (2-1, 4.41) vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 4.36).
So far, Meche has quieted the criticism. In five starts, he has a 2.55 earned-run average and a 1-1 record.
"It's a matter of early outs," Meche said. "I threw 110 [actually 111] pitches the last couple of starts, but I went eight and seven innings — not walking guys. That's what I've always said: If I could cut my walks, everything else would take care of itself."
Said Royals assistant general manager Dean Taylor, "We did what we thought was right for the organization. So far, it's worked out as well if not better than we expected."
Asked if he thinks he'll receive an Alex Rodriguez-style, boo-the-departed welcome, Meche said, "I didn't turn down anything. It just worked out that there was never a whole lot of interest [from Seattle].
As for the start against the Mariners, he said, "It's going to feel strange, I'll tell you that much."
In his time in Seattle, Meche, 28, was seen as a pitcher with excellent stuff but not having maximized it on the mound. He had a 55-44 record and 4.65 ERA.
At the Mariners' media-day luncheon in January, general manager Bill Bavasi said, "There's probably some fuse missing in his fuse box that makes it work on a consistent basis. Maybe Kansas City can find that switch and get it turned on."
Throwing out the first pitch for the Mariners as part of a celebration of their 30-year anniversary was Harold Reynolds, ex-All Star second baseman and a member of the club from 1983-92.
"It's been an interesting year," Reynolds said wryly before the game, "but I'm doing well."
Reynolds, an 11-year employee of ESPN, mostly as a studio analyst, was fired last July by the cable network, which declined to explain the move. Several media outlets reported ESPN alleged Reynolds violated its sexual-harassment policies.
Reynolds has filed a $5 million lawsuit in Connecticut, charging breach of contract and wrongful termination.
"The thing that's amazing to me is how long the legal process takes," said Reynolds, who says depositions haven't yet been taken and the case isn't scheduled for trial until February of 2009.
"I've never had any upper-management person tell me why I got fired," he said. "I'm not bitter, but I'm definitely angry. Had I had a chance to sit down and explain situations, we wouldn't have been in this."
In a quest to land another broadcasting job, Reynolds said he has "talked to every high-level executive in baseball to explain what's going on, and I think we're close to a breakthrough."
Reynolds has gotten involved in other business ventures, including an instructional video, and a program called Game Plan designed to educate high-school athletes interested in pursuing sports at a higher level.
In the meantime, he said he watches a lot of televised baseball, and "the funny thing is, you always have some comment you want to make. So I just yell at the TV now. You get a little different perspective when you're not sitting in the studio watching."
• RHP Felix Hernandez, sidelined recently with a strained forearm, threw a 35-pitch bullpen session before the game and said he felt good.
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said Hernandez is still scheduled to return May 4 in New York, but the rotation isn't set for sure.
• LHP Arthur Rhodes will undergo Tommy John surgery Wednesday in California, performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who confirmed an earlier diagnosis.
For the record
vs. AL West: 7-5
vs. L.A.: 0-3
vs. Oakland: 4-1
vs. Texas: 3-1
vs. AL East: 1-1
vs. AL Central: 1-3
vs. NL: 0-0
vs. LHP: 2-2
vs. RHP: 7-7
Extra innings: 0-0
Friday's crowd: 37,281
Season total: 266,821
Biggest crowd: 46,003 (April 2)
Smallest crowd: 19,015 (April 17)
Average (10 dates): 26,682
2006 average (10 dates): 25,881