The Kansas City Royals and Luke Hochevar were dealt a significant blow earlier in the week when it was reported by Dick Kaegel of MLB.com that the right-hander would miss time with a sprained pitching elbow.
It turns out things were much worse than that, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star spoke to Royals manager Ned Yost who confirmed that Hochevar will need elbow reconstruction surgery.
Luke Hochevar will have Tommy John surgery, Yost says.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) March 7, 2014
This puts a significant dent in Kansas City's pitching rotation. Hochevar was competing to be the fifth starter in the rotation, though his track record in that role didn't make it seem like a good fit. The 30-year-old has a 5.44 career ERA in 128 starts, compared to a 2.06 ERA in 62 relief appearances.
McCullough reported more of Yost's comments:
“He’s one of my favorite players,” Yost said. “So it hurts knowing that he’s been through this whole process of the rebuilding, gotten to a point where now we have a chance to compete. He’s not going to be a part of it on the field. But with his personality, and who he is, he’s still going to be a big part of it off the field.
The Kansas City Star reporter also talked to Hochevar about what the injury meant:
“The toughest part about it is we’re primed this year to win,” Hochevar said during an emotional session with reporters. “You want to be part of that dog pile in September. The way the team’s shaping up, we’re going to win. That’s not a doubt. From every standpoint, I want to be a part of it. It’s just not going to happen.”
McCullough also wrote about Hochevar's injury in the Kansas City Star, saying the Royals reliever made a point to ask teammate Bruce Chen, who had Tommy John surgery in 2007, what he should do.
It’s hard. You have been training all offseason for the season. And then one day, one pitch, you feel something. And the next day you don’t feel as good. Your whole thing, all your goals shift directions, and now you don’t know where you want to go.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore spoke about Hochevar's injury, impending free agency and what it means for his future with the franchise, via 610 Sports Radio's Josh Renier.
#Royals Dayton Moore "We wouldn't rule Luke out for the future...We'll hopefully be able to keep him in the organization going forward."— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier) March 7, 2014
Hochevar is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. He's spent his entire career in Kansas City.
The Royals built one of the best bullpens in baseball last season, which Hochevar was a huge part of. They had the best ERA in the American League (2.55), highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.07) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.57) in baseball.
Hochevar had his best season in 2013, posting a 1.92 ERA in 70.1 innings with just 41 hits allowed and an 82-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
If there is a silver lining for the Royals, it's that they have plenty of power arms with Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow to absorb the loss of Hochevar without a huge drop off.
Still, it's an unfortunate situation for a pitcher who never lived up to the hype as a No. 1 pick in 2006, but finally found a successful niche as an MLB pitcher.
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