Hochevar just wants the ball -- but he'd rather get it as a starter
FEB 04, 2014 3:02p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Make no mistake: After several seasons of disappointment as a starter, Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar loved the way he was finally able to contribute to the team in 2013 out of the bullpen.
But Hochevar isn't ready to give up his first love -- being a starter.
"I had a fun year last year," he says. "The bullpen guys down there are a lot of fun. Everything is a lot more fun when you're winning."
Hochevar made the conversion to the 'pen with phenomenal ease. He went 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA and an amazing 0.825 WHIP.
And as the season wore on, manager Ned Yost began to trust Hochevar in increasingly high-leverage spots. Eventually, Hochevar took over as Yost's primary setup guy.
But Hochevar has his sights set on rejoining the rotation.
"We'll see what shakes out," he says. "I'll take the ball in whatever situation they want to put me in. I'll take the ball.
"But yeah, I like the rotation."
The road back to the rotation got a little tougher last week, though, when Yost said at the Royals FanFest that recently signed Bruce Chen had a starting spot virtually locked up.
But Hochevar is confident he can win that battle for the final spot.
"I think I learned a lot in the bullpen," he says. "If I get back into the rotation, I'm not going to have the 'pace myself' mentality. I'm not going to hold back. I'm going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can."
That philosophy helped former Royal Zack Greinke turn his career around. In 2007, the Royals shifted Greinke to the bullpen, where he also learned to attack every hitter with everything he had. Greinke then returned to the rotation and became one of the top pitchers in the game.
"I don't think I can (match) the velocities I did coming out of the bullpen and do it for seven innings," Hochevar concedes. "We'll find out. But before when I was a starter, I would pick my spots. I think a lot of being a starter was to set guys up and not show pitches until you get deeper in the game.
"Last year, all I had to do was get three guys out. I was throwing a pitch to get that guy out right there. I wasn't worried about showing a pitch to a guy who might have two or three more at-bats (against me). I think I'll bring a new approach if I get back into the rotation."
Regardless where he ends up, Hochevar is excited for the 2014 season.
"It all started with the guys we brought in last year," he says. "Before, we hoped to win. Then last year we expected to win. That's where we are now."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.