Luke Hochevar accepted a ring on Monday afternoon for a season in which he never threw a pitch. He sat on the bench for an opening day victory, sidelined on the disabled list, bound for a rehabilitation stint in Class AAA Omaha.
This is the plight of a pitcher felled by Tommy John surgery. Hochevar is not yet 13 months removed from the procedure. The Royals expect him to contribute in 2015, but he may not be ready until the middle of next month. And that’s if he does not experience a setback in his reconstructed elbow.
Hochevar will depart for the Pacific Coast League for the season opener on Thursday. Before he headed to the minors, he offered a primer on what he needs to accomplish before he can rejoin the big-league club.
“I think that to be able to come up and to be ready at the big-league level, I think there’s a couple steps that I still need to take,” Hochevar said. “The majority of it has to do with recovery and how I’m responding to my outings.
“Even now, I’m pitching with two days in between. That’s got to get moved to one day in between. And then be able to respond, be able to repeat my stuff. And then that’s got to be able to be moved to back-to-back days, and be able to repeat my stuff.
“For instance, in spring, I went from three days to two days. It felt great. But with that adjustment, it took me doing that two times to have my stuff reciprocate. I felt fine. There’s no issues there. It’s just a matter of getting my arm back in shape and getting it used to bouncing back.”
Hochevar insisted he only felt two occasions this spring when his arsenal lacked its proper sharpness.
“So hopefully I’ve had enough touches on the mound that it doesn’t take that long,” Hochevar said. “Hopefully when I go to one day, everything reciprocates and I feel great. And then I’m able to go back to back, and then be done with it.”
FROM THE STAR
1. The swaggering, snarling Royals returned to Kauffman Stadium to begin the defense of their American League crown.
2. Sam Mellinger columnized Yordano Ventura’s eventful Opening Day.
3. Vahe Gregorian columnized Mike Moustakas’ eventful Opening Day.
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Sundialing” by Caribou.