Surprise, Ariz. Luke Hochevar had some memorable games and forgettable starts in 2009 for the Kansas City Royals.
He needed only 80 pitches in nine innings on June 12 to beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-1. He struck out 13 Texas Rangers and walked none in a July 25 victory. He logged his first career shutout on Sept. 18 against the Chicago White Sox, yielding three singles and only one that left the infield.
However, the shutout at Chicago was his only victory in his final 13 starts. He went 1-10 with an 8.21 earned-run average the second half.
Hochevar, who was an early arrival for the Royals’ volunteer spring training mini-camp, is trying not to dwell on how last season finished.
“Last year, I felt I was a lot better than my first year,” Hochevar said. “There were a lot of bright spots in my season, a lot of games I pitched really well. Those are the ones I think about. I don’t think about the ones I struggled or didn’t go the way I wanted them.”
Hochevar’s final three starts certainly did not go his way. He yielded 21 earned runs on 24 hits, including five home runs, and six walks in 14 innings. He finished the year 7-13 with a 6.55 ERA.
“Obviously, it’s not where I want to be and where I’m going to be,” Hochevar said. “It was really the last month and a half that didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
Hochevar was the first player selected in the 2006 amateur draft, the same year the San Francisco Giants with the 10th pick chose Tim Lincecum, who has won the past two National League Cy Young awards.
Hochevar’s main problem is his penchant to give up the big inning. In 16 innings, he allowed three or more runs, including one seven-run inning and another of six runs.
“Last year I felt I was on the verge,” Hochevar said. “It was just one inning that was biting me. But other than that, I was pitching good. The big inning is what hurt me. I’d pitch good enough for six innings, but the inning they scored they would score three or more runs. Eliminating the big innings is going to be big for me.”