Luke Hochevar hopes to begin throwing off a mound in January

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Fresh off signing a new two-year, $10 million contract with the Royals this week, Luke Hochevar told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that he hopes to begin throwing off a mound in January.

Hochevar missed the entire 2014 season following Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old is currently limited to playing catch, but hasn’t had any setbacks in his rehab. He still has some important hurdles to cross, but the expectation is that he will be ready for Opening Day. Hochevar actually pitched with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament from 2010 until this past March, so he already feels a world of difference.

“I keep telling them over and over again, ‘I feel better now then before I had surgery,’” Hochevar said. “That’s a good sign. Hopefully it just continues this way.”

A first-round pick of the Royals in 2006, Hochevar was a bust as a starting pitcher, but he dominated with a shift to the bullpen in 2013 by posting a 1.92 ERA (215 ERA+) with an 82/17 K/BB ratio over 70 1/3 innings. It’s a scary thought to add him back into the mix in 2015, though the Royals could cash in on their reliever surplus and deal Greg Holland or Wade Davis.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.