Expected to be in the battle to be the Royals fifth starter, Hochevar ended his time in that competition in the same way that his Royals career had been prior to 2013 – with disappointment. According to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, Hochevar is out until at least the end of May with what is thought to be a sprained UCL and a strain in the muscles around the ligament.
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
Naturally, when hearing that a pitcher has an injury like that, the first thought is about potential Tommy John surgery. Obviously, that is the worst case scenario for Luke Hochevar. Not only would he miss the entire season, but he would go into free agency as damaged goods, his one above average year as a reliever. Even in the best case, Hochevar will be out until the end of May to the beginning of June, at which point his chance to prove that he can start will have long since passed him by.
It may be fair to wonder if the transition back to a potential starting role played a part in Hochevar’s injury. Hochevar averaged three miles per hour more with his fastball in 2013 than he had in previous years, and may have injured his elbow trying to throw harder for an extended period of time. All that is really known is that Hochevar felt the twinge on Monday, and the exam revealed the injury.
Right now, the Royals are hoping that two to three weeks of rest and a lengthy rehab assignment will be enough to keep Luke Hochevar from going under the knife. Of course, even if that ends up being the plan, there are no guarantees that the injury will not get aggravated during rehab, causing Hochevar to have the surgery anyway.
While losing Hochevar, who was quite the revelation as a reliever, will hurt the Royals bullpen, they have enough depth where they should be able to overcome the injury. As it was, the Royals did not have enough room for all their bullpen candidates, and it was felt that a trade of a reliever would happen at some point in time. Now, the Royals can use that depth to their advantage.
Although this is a loss that the Royals can overcome, the timing could not be worse for Luke Hochevar. With free agency around the corner, the last thing he needed was to get injured.