It seems the Kansas City Royals are finally starting to gain perspective on their jaded allegiance toward right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar. In a rather surprising move considering there are only a few weeks left in spring training, the team has decided that the former No. 1 overall pick is best suited for a role in the bullpen (via KansasCity.com).
“I think it makes us a better team,” manager Ned Yost said. “I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.”
The first prospect taken way back in 2006, Hochevar never materialized into the top-of-the-rotation arm the Royals needed him to be. It's that faint hope, however, that's kept him in Kansas City for the last six seasons.
Though showing flashes of brilliance at times, Hochevar's career has been marred by maddening inconsistency. In 132 career games (128 starts), Hochevar has amassed a 38-59 record, while posting a 5.39 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.
The Royals’ Achilles' heel over the years has been their starting pitching, so general manager Dayton Moore made it the team’s top priority to drastically improve in this area.
During the offseason, Kansas City traded for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana, while re-signing Jeremy Guthrie—who was brought over in a trade with the Colorado Rockies last July. All are currently etched in as the team’s top four starters.
The fifth slot in the rotation is still up for grabs, with Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza and Will Smith as the likely candidates.
Going into spring training, the competition for the team’s No. 5 starter's job was jumbled, but the Royals’ bullpen was just as crowded.
Greg Holland’s job as closer is secure, while Kelvin Herrera will likely be his setup man. Throw in mainstays such as Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Nate Adcock and Louis Coleman, and there aren’t many spots to go around.
With Everett Teaford, Francisley Bueno, Dan Wheeler, Donnie Joseph and whoever are the two odd men out of the starting rotation also in the mix, there really isn’t room for Hochevar.
For now, the hard-throwing righty says he'll do whatever it takes to help the Royals win games:
I’m willing to take the ball in any position that I can to help the club. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s starting or in relief, whatever it is, my role is not important. What’s important is that when I take the ball, I’m helping the club.
While his compliance with the move shines a positive light on the situation, the long-term forecast is that Hochevar’s days as a Royal could be numbered.
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