The Kansas City Royals, relatively injury free during their 86-win season in 2013, now must deal with their first major setback of 2014 with the news that right-hander Luke Hochevar has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament.
It is the type of injury near the elbow that often requires Tommy John surgery, though the Royals have not suggested yet that Hochevar’s injury is that severe.
Hochevar, who said he felt a twinge while throwing Monday, will be shut down for a minimum of two to three weeks before being re-evaluated. But manager Ned Yost indicated that the best-case scenario for Hochevar would be that he returns in late May or June.
The most immediate ramification of Hochevar’s injury is that it reduces the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation to Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy. For Ventura and Duffy, not winning a spot in the rotation likely would mean a ticket to Triple-A Omaha.
If Hochevar would have lost out in his bid for the rotation, he would have returned as Yost’s primary setup man to closer Greg Holland, a role in which Hochevar excelled in late August and September last season.
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That job now will be up for grabs among Davis (if he doesn’t start), Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow. Herrera and Crow both struggled in that role last season, leading to Hochevar’s promotion.
Joseph has had a good spring so far, striking out four batters in two scoreless innings.
Hochevar’s injury is untimely contract-wise. Hochevar, who is due to make $5.21 million this season, is scheduled to be a free agent after this season.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.