The two-year contract for Luke Hochevar contains a provision of $2 million in performances bonuses he can reach as a starting pitcher. Hochevar stumbled for years as a starter before finding a relief niche in 2013.
As he returns from Tommy John surgery for 2015, Royals manager Ned Yost stressed he projected Hochevar as yet another power arm in his bullpen. But he would not rule the possibility the club would ask Hochevar to stretch out before spring training.
“We take into account everything,” Yost said Monday at baseball’s Winter Meetings. “We’re not saying ‘No,’ because that may be an option for him. Right now, we might bring him in as a starter, and it might be less tax on his arm. But those decisions will all be made in spring training.”
In his seven big-league seasons, Hochevar has a 2.06 ERA as a reliever and a 5.44 ERA as a starter. He led the American League with 118 earned runs allowed in 2012. But the Royals have yet to replace James Shields in their rotation, and Hochevar will at least remain an option in that role.
In all likelihood, Hochevar will work as a reliever. The team has fielded trade proposals involving Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, according to people familiar with the situation. While the team is reluctant to break up their bullpen, they must consider this route for finding either a starting pitcher or an outfielder.
Thus Hochevar provides a level of insurance if the team makes a deal.
“I felt really, really good when we were able to sign Hoch,” Yost said. “Because I went a number of times during the postseason and watched him throw. And it was like ‘Golly! Can you get on the mound right now?’ And he was like ‘Man, I feel like I can.’ I was really, really encouraged when I was watching him with his throwing program.”