Greg Holland, Luke Hochevar edging toward returns to Royals

Royals closer Greg Holland pitches against the White Sox during their April 8 ga,e at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals defeated the White Sox 7-5.
Royals closer Greg Holland pitches against the White Sox during their April 8 ga,e at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals defeated the White Sox 7-5. AP

On Saturday morning, the medical staff of the Royals will evaluate closer Greg Holland to determine when he can resume a throwing program. Holland has not thrown a baseball since feeling discomfort stemming from his strained right pectoral muscle last Friday.

Holland is eligible to return on May 3, the final day of Kansas City’s first series against Detroit. The club cannot determine his readiness until it observes how he responds to throwing.

“It feels a lot better,” Holland said. “It’s just one of those things where it is more just uncomfortable to pitch. It wasn’t like daily routine stuff that bothered me. It was just the actual throwing itself. So since I went on the DL, I’ve felt pretty normal. But we’ve been cautious, as far as staying on off of it and just giving it time to calm down, so it doesn’t flare back up.”

Holland is on the disabled list because of an arm injury for the first time in his big-league career. Holland, a two-time All Star, has yet to give up a hit this season.

With Holland out, Wade Davis has taken over the closer role and Kelvin Herrera has inherited the eighth inning. But Herrera faces a suspension for throwing behind Oakland third baseman Brett Lawrie. The Royals expect his appeal, which could result in a reduction to the five-game penalty, should be litigated within the next two weeks.

By then, Holland could be ready to return and Luke Hochevar could be ready for activation from the disabled list. Hochevar was expected to begin pitching with only one day off for Class AAA Omaha on Thursday evening.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland relayed Hochevar was slated to pitch on Thursday, Saturday and Monday. The three-game slate represented progress as Hochevar rebuilds arm strength in his return from Tommy John surgery.

“That’s going to be, it won’t be a big test, but it’s going to be the first time he’s going every other day,” Eiland said. “So that’s just another step to get where he needs to get.”

In his first four outings for the Storm Chasers, Hochevar posted a 3.86 ERA in 4 2/3 innings. He issued five walks in those innings, but four occurred during one outing on April 15. His fastball velocity has been clocked at 92-94 mph, according to Royals officials and rival scouts who have watched him.

Eiland communicates with Hochevar almost daily. His main concern is that Hochevar does not experience any setbacks, like the onset of elbow tendinitis or an inability to loosen up before outings.

“He’s progressing the way we want him to progress,” Eiland said. “He’s feeling good. There’s nothing exciting one way or the other. He’s doing what he needs to do. Moving along fine.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.