Before the Kansas City Royals went out this offseason and performed a comprehensive facelift on their starting rotation, former top pick Luke Hochevar was penciled in at the front of their staff yet again—assuming the team tendered his contract prior to the deadline, which they did end up doing.
The good thing for the Royals is that guys like James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis will replace the mish-mash of starting pitchers this franchise has thrown on the bump over the last few seasons.
The bad thing is that the competition to be the fifth starter in Kansas City still includes names like Hochevar and Bruce Chen, among others. And until Danny Duffy and/or Felipe Paulino can return from Tommy John surgery, the Royals are forced to deal with this disconcerting ordeal.
But is it possible that this notion is only off-putting on the surface and that Hochevar can begin to thrive at the back end of the rotation?
While his numbers may state otherwise—a career 5.39 ERA with a 38-59 record—a slight modification in how he is viewed within the organization, and how he views himself as a pitcher could be good for both Hochevar and the Royals.
It is easy to assume that a six-year track record has already defined Hochevar in this league. However, not knowing how he will adjust without the pressures of carrying the weight of the entire starting rotation lends itself to giving him one last shot.
Hochevar’s flashes of brilliance have come few and far between throughout his career. But the reliance on such stellar outings becomes less imperative at the back end of the rotation, where eating innings and saving the bullpen are more vital.
A repeat of 2012 simply won’t cut it next season. But a clean slate—with fewer expectations and diminished pressure—could be the most impactful offseason move the Royals make, though skepticism still lurks.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.