Luke Hochevar is far from the kind of 22-year-old hotshot starting pitcher teams typically shut down in September. He actually turned 28 today, and he’s currently sporting a 5.29 ERA in 96 big-league starts (and four relief appearances). Nevertheless, the Royals have decided to have him hang it up for the season because of concerns about his workload.
The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton has the quotes:
“Could he finish the year?” manager Ned Yost asked. “Yeah. He wants to. But for me, it just doesn’t make any sense to continue to push his innings when he’s in a good spot. It gives us an opportunity to look at somebody else.”
The decision likely has a lot to do with last year’s reduced workload, the result of a sprained elbow ligament that sidelined him from mid-June until early September. Hochevar ended up throwing just 103 innings then before jumping to 198 this year.
“He’s had a real nice second half,” Yost said, “and the innings are way up. He ends on a real good note. He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready to go 230 innings next year without missing a beat.”
Well, let’s not go that far. Generally, one has to be pretty good to pitch 230 innings. Hochevar is ending this season with a 4.68 ERA. Yost is right about the second half improvement — he went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a particularly impressive 1.13 WHIP in his final 12 starts — but he got some help from the schedule makers there. Overall, his peripherals suggest that little has changed. This year’s strikeout rate is a little worse than his career average, the walk rate is a little better and the home run rate is almost exactly the same.
Hochevar may yet make the jump from No. 4 starter to No. 3 starter, but it’s hard to see him having much more upside than that. With his salary likely to increase to $3 million or so in arbitration next year, it’s still to be determined whether he’s going to fit into Kansas City’s long-term plans or not.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.