Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar has been shut down for at least two weeks with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
McCullough reports that “the team hopes he returns by the end of May,” which suggests it could be a more serious injury. UCLs are the ligaments that lead to Tommy John surgery and 12-month recovery timetables when torn.
After years of disappointing as a starter Hochevar shifted to the bullpen last season with a ton of success, throwing 70 innings with a 1.92 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio. By comparison, he has a 5.44 ERA in 128 career starts.
The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.