KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Gil Meche, whose $55 million, five-year contract as a free agent in 2007 signaled a sharp change in fiscal policy for the Kansas City Royals, announced Tuesday that he is retiring.

 In a statement released through the Royals, the right-hander, who was plagued by shoulder problems last year, said he preferred retirement to spending the final year of his contract in the bullpen.

 Meche was the Royals' Opening Day starter in 2007, '08 and '09. His best season was 2008 when he was 14-11 with a 3.98 ERA, but the Royals still finished 75-87.

 He retires with a 84-83 record in 10 seasons with Seattle and Kansas City. With the Royals, he was 29-39 with a 4.27 ERA in 111 games, including 100 starts. In the last two seasons, he was 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA and 0-5, 5.69.

"After a lot of thinking and prioritizing of issues in my life I have decided to retire from baseball," Meche said in the statement.

"As a competitor my entire life, this is the hardest decision that I've ever faced, but it's not fair to me, my family or the Kansas City Royals that I attempt to pitch anymore. I came into this game as a starting pitcher and unfortunately my health, more accurately, my shoulder, has deteriorated to the point where surgery would be the only option and at this stage of my life I would prefer to call it a career rather than to attempt to pitch in relief for the final year of my contract."I can't thank the Kansas City Royals and their fans enough for my four seasons there and if I have any regret, it's that we weren't able to accomplish on the field what the goal was when I signed there."

 Shut out of the postseason since 1985 with an overmatched low-payroll team, Royals fans hoped Meche's signing would encourage owner David Glass to begin increasing payroll. To some extent, he did, signing free agent outfielder Jose Guillen to a three-year, $36 million deal before the 2008 season. Guillen, after spotty success in Kansas City, was traded last August to the San Francisco Giants.

 On June 16, 2009, then-manager Trey Hillman let Meche threw a career-high 132 pitches in a complete-game shutout of Arizona. Soon after, Meche began experiencing back and shoulder problems, and Hillman was criticized for overworking him.

Meche was moved to the bullpen late last season. Hillman was fired during the 2010 season and replaced by Ned Yost.