Luke Hochevar began 2012 as a reluctant front-line starter out of necessity for the Kansas City Royals.
But if the rest of March is going to go the way of his Spring Training debut, he might not have a spot in the starting rotation by the time Opening Day comes around.
That’s going to seem a little stark and perhaps far too early, but consider Hochevar’s circumstances: with the team’s additions of James Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana, the right-hander how finds himself on the outside looking in, and will have to pitch – and actually do it well – to earn a spot on the rotation.
On Wednesday, he did anything but.
Hochevar set the tone his day against the Milwaukee Brewers by walking Norichika Aoki, who scored on an ensuing double, and did not get out of the second of his two schedule innings of work, as he was removed with two outs after consecutive walks.
Now, his pair of earned runs allowed was coming off just a hit, and the 29-year old did set a pair of batters down on strikes; but the three walks is an early alarm to how ineffective Hochevar can be when he doesn’t have his control, as he threw just 20 strikes to 18 balls, a far cry from his in-season 62.7 percent strikes thrown in 2012 .
And considering that he is in a position where every outing is going to count, it definitely wasn’t the impression he wanted to make to the team in his attempt to earn the No. 5 starter job.
Not helping things any for Hochevar is that one of his primary competitors, Bruce Chen (who was actually the team ace by default last season!), was perfect later on in the game, striking out a pair of batters without allowing a single baserunner in his two innings of work.
After coming off his second full season of work the majors and posting a brutal 5.73/1.43 ERA/WHIP, Hochevar was already rumored to be on the fringes with the club that drafted him first overall in 2006.
It’s only been 1.2 innings so far in 2013, but if he doesn’t quickly turn things around in the handful of opportunities that are left, he’ll be pushed out of the mix altogether.