Little has gone according to plan for Luke Hochevar since the Kansas City Royals first selected him with the first overall selection in the 2006 Draft. He’s struggled for years as a starter before blossoming in a relief role last season. Some wondered if the team would non-tender him this winter, before the two sides agreed to a one year, $5.2 Million deal for the upcoming season – Hochevar’s last before facing free agency for the first time.
Everyone can pump the brakes on any plans that may have been in place.
Hochevar will be immediately shut down for three weeks with a strained ulnar collateral ligament. The diagnosis was revealed after the right-hander felt a “twinge” in his shoulder while throwing on Monday. He won’t undergo activities of any kind during this time. That will be followed by at least 2-3 months of rehab in all likelihood. Tommy John surgery has not yet been completely ruled out. The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough notes that the team is optimistic that he could return in late May.
Luke Hochevar has a sprained UCL. He’ll be shut down for at least two weeks. The team hopes he returns by the end of May.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) March 5, 2014
Hochevar’s time as a starter has hardly been impressive. He’s made 128 starts for the Royals, posting a 38-59 record while pitching to a 5.44 ERA and 1.406 WHIP across 758.1 IP (under 6.0 IP per start, roughly). Out of the bullpen, however, Hochevar seems to be a completely different pitcher. In 62 appearances in relief (58 of which came this past season) he’s posted a 2.06 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. He’s seen his K/9 increase to 9.7 and his K/BB has more than doubled to 4.45.
Interestingly enough, the Royals seemed to be looking at Hochevar as an option in the rotation this spring despite the presence of multiple other options. Some have speculated that Wade Davis could get more of a look in consideration for the last spot in the team’s rotation, but ultimately this likely opens the door for one of Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy to last that place on the roster. Duffy’s experience might give him a slight edge, but Ventura is considered one of the top right-handed prospects in baseball.