Luke Hochevar has been here before, but in this case experience isn’t an advantage.
Hochevar is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery earlier this month to fix thoracic outlet syndrome, a neurogenic issue caused by the compression of nerves near the neck and shoulder.
He is progressing well after initial soreness and has regained his range of motion. Hochevar said he should be good to go by spring training.
The condition is different than the one that sidelined him for the 2014 season when he had Tommy John surgery.
Hochevar, a former starter, reinvented himself as a reliever and had a terrific season in 2013 and watched these Royals’ first World Series run in 2014 from the sideline, as he’s doing now.
“That’s always tough,” Hochevar said. “It (stinks) having to sit back and watch the team compete and now go on a really good run. There’s not much I can do from my standpoint but support them and cheer them on.”
Hochevar came back strong in 2015, taking his place in a dominant bullpen that helped the Royals win the World Series. He is seeing the same kind of run from this bullpen, even without him and closer Wade Davis, who is working his way back from an elbow injury.
It doesn’t seem to matter who has been in the bullpen over the last few seasons, the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore have turned relief pitching into a cornerstone of their success.
“I don’t think it’s an accident,” Hochevar said. “Dayton has done a great job putting this pen together. (Pitching coach) Dave Eiland has done a great job getting the most of these guys and fine tuning things.”
The current bullpen includes five pitchers — Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, Chien-Ming Wang, Peter Moylan and Bryan Flynn — who weren’t part of last season’s pen.
Yet, the Royals, who led baseball in bullpen ERA last year, are on top again in 2016.
“They’re pitching great. They really are,” Hochevar said.
How great? Entering Monday’s game against the Yankees, the Royals’ pen has surrendered two earned runs in the previous 50 innings.
Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.