Andy McCullough is reporting that Luke Hochevar is being shut down with a sprained UCL. It appears that he will be out until late May or early June.
Although Luke Hochevar was the 2nd best reliever last year, behind Greg Holland, the bullpen should be able to absorb this loss. Relievers tend to be volatile from year to year, so it’s always nice to have more guys that have proved they can get guys out at the MLB level. In this case the Royals still have Kelvin Herrara, Aaron Crow, and Tim Collins to get from the starter to Holland in close games.
Even though it will undoubtedly hurt the team it does open up a couple of possibilities. First, the Royals could move Bruce Chen into the bullpen. If he is out pitched by Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura during the spring then he will be a more valuable commodity as a swing man.
If somehow Luke Hochevar does avoid Tommy John Surgery that would give a great 3 month audition to Ventura and Duffy to see if they are able to consistently get out MLB hitters, while keeping another viable option on the roster.
The Royals could also use this opportunity to open the season with one less bullpen arm. I believe that the biggest thing that would have held them back from doing this was a lack of guys that still had options left. They can utilize the 40 man roster, sending players up and down from AAA to get a better look at either Pedro Ciriaco or Christian Colon with the added bonus of having a backup infielder.
The most likely result is going to be that there is a seldom used 7th bullpen guy. It does add some more intrigue as to who is going to get the final 2 spots coming into the season.