On Wednesday morning, as he pondered a potentially career-altering diagnosis, Luke Hochevar sat down with Bruce Chen. Six years ago, Chen underwent Tommy John surgery. Hochevar faces a similar procedure, Royals manager Ned Yost said Friday.
During their conversation, Chen explained, Hochevar’s questions ran the gamut. He probed Chen for information.
What happens if I have to have surgery? What happens during my rehab? What happens if I have a setback?
Chen instructed Hochevar to stop wasting his energy “thinking about something that might not even happen.” But while Yost floated a return by the end of May as the “best-case scenario," surgery could not be avoided.
“It’s hard,” Chen said. “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.”
Hochevar, the 30-year-old former No. 1 overall pick, felt a twinge in his elbow on Monday. On Tuesday, he felt soreness in the joint, and an MRI revealed his condition, which also includes strained muscles around the elbow. On Thursday, he was scheduled to meet with Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ team physician, in Los Angeles.
“We always try to accommodate what they want,” Yost said. “So that everybody knows what’s going on, and everybody feels good. These kinds of these, we always get second opinions and stuff like that. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it just confirms the first finding, and we go from there.”
Hochevar can become a free agent after this season. He debuted in the majors in 2007. The prospect of ever playing elsewhere snuck up on him, he admitted earlier this spring.
“You get so locked into the process of building an organization,” Hochevar said. “And then it’s like ‘Wow. It may be over.’ Or it may go on for another six years. You don’t know. You don’t know what’s going to happen. But it is kind of crazy.”
Hochevar also received encouragement from Danny Duffy. Two years ago, Duffy tore 86 percent of his UCL and required surgery. Hochevar categorized his condition to Duffy as far less dire.
“You feel bad for anybody that happens to,” Duffy said. “But I know that if somebody is going to come back from it, it’s Hoch. Regardless of what this thing is.”
The decision to have surgery means the Royals will open the season without a bullpen weapon. Hochevar starred as a reliever in 2013.
“If he has to rehab," Chen said. "he’s still going to try to do everything he can to help this team win. He’s a warrior.”