RC Interview with Luke Hochevar

After breezing through a four-start stint with the Burlington Bees to kick off his career, Luke Hochevar is heading to Wichita for the playoffs. RC caught up with Hochevar after his final start on Friday night, and we learned some interesting things about the pitches he's working on, his superstitions, and his expectations for the remainder of the season.

Royals Corner: Luke, could you give us your thoughts about tonight's game? Did you have command of all of your pitches?

Luke Hochevar: Early on, I kind of got in a mode where I was feeling things out. That can't happen – that has to take place in the bullpen, and I've got to come out sharp. But then again, sometimes that happens. Early on, I really felt like, you know, just kind of spitting out a little bit. I left a pitch up to [Tyler] Green. We were trying to go in, and it was middle-in but it was up, and he got a hold of that. And then the other home run was in under the guy's hands, but he just got the barrel out. But after that, I felt I really settled in and got into a good groove and started to command all of my pitches. I had more of a purpose to my pitches instead of just getting up there and airing it out. I got in a good groove there later on.

Hochevar had another stellar start on Friday, despite picking up his first professional loss

Royals Corner: Your numbers tonight were very good – six innings pitched, four hits, two runs. You mentioned you made a few mistakes, on the two home runs you mentioned and a double in the first inning. Do you remember what pitches you threw to those hitters? Were they all fastballs?

Luke Hochevar: Yeah, they were all fastballs that I just didn't execute. They were all early on in the game, so I just need to make the adjustment and come out and start executing early on and find my groove in my bullpen, instead of trying to search for it on the mound in the first couple of innings. But yeah, they were all just unexecuted fastballs.

Royals Corner: Did you throw any sliders tonight? I don't think I saw you throw any.

Luke Hochevar: No, right now it's just fastball, curveball, and change-up. You may have seen a backdoor curveball, but right now I'm just trying to command those three pitches and get hitters out with just three bullets. I'm used to having five that I can go to. It makes it tougher when you only have three, but then again, it's better because I get a better idea of how to attack hitters with just three bullets, which is fine.

Royals Corner: Is that a directive from the club, to get you to work on those pitches exclusively right now?

Luke Hochevar: Yeah, they told me as soon as I came in that that was the plan. They wanted me to get good command of my fastball, curveball, and change-up, and I'm glad that they did that. I've really learned the importance of executing a fastball, because with that slider, I always had an easy way out. If I get in a jam, [the slider] looks like a fastball, and I just throw it to get a punch-out or groundball. It's been good, and I'm glad they did that with me.

Hochevar has an outstanding slider, but the Royals want him to work on his other pitches right now.

Royals Corner: Can you talk a little bit about your adjustment to pro ball? You've made four starts so far. Have there been any surprises?

Luke Hochevar: No, I think playing in the independent league was a good tune-up for me. Some people think the independent league is just a bunch of guys trying to hang on, but it's a really good league. I would say that the independent league is better than this league, just due to the fact that hitters there are older, they're more experienced, and they have better approaches. I'm probably facing better talent here, but I think the approaches in independent ball were better. So it was a good tune-up for me. I'm just excited to start my career and be pitching again. Nothing makes me happier than that.

Royals Corner: So what's the plan now? We've heard rumors that you're heading to Wichita to join the Wranglers in the playoffs, but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere. Can you confirm that for us?

Luke Hochevar: Yeah, I head out tomorrow morning, and I get into Wichita at about two o'clock and join the club there for the playoffs. I'm excited to get out and compete, and to try to pitch for a ring. That will be a lot of fun. The guys in the organization just pump the Double-A club. They say all the guys on the club are just unbelievable guys, and I'm excited to get into that environment and compete next to those guys.

Hochevar is now heading to Wichita for the playoffs. His final numbers in Burlington: 15.1 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 16 K, 1.17 ERA

Royals Corner: You're also scheduled to go to the Arizona Fall League. Do you have any idea of what kind of workload you're looking at in the AFL. I know pitchers there don't generally throw as many pitches per outing, but has anyone talked to you about that yet?

Luke Hochevar: No, we haven't discussed that yet. We're still trying to stay in the process here of getting my pitch count up and getting deep into games, and making adjustments and learning the things I need to learn now. But when that time comes, I'm sure it'll come up and we'll discuss it. Especially since I haven't logged a full season, I may be into deeper pitch counts and that sort of thing. So we'll see. I'm super-excited to get that started, along with getting out to Double-A and competing out there.

Royals Corner: We heard something about you cleaning your catcher's cleats before your first start. Is that something that you do before every start, and if so, how long have you been doing that?

Luke Hochevar: It is something that I do before every start. I've been doing it for a long time, ever since I got to college. Actually, I think it started in high school. It's just been something that I've always done. You always hear about ballplayers talking about karma. If a guy's on a hitting streak, he doesn't clean his jersey, or he doesn't clean his spikes. It's that type of thing, and so I clean my spikes, and my catcher's spikes, the night before I throw. I just kind of try to get us on the same page. I take care of him, and he takes care of me behind the dish. From a pitcher's standpoint, those are the guys you've really got to take care of, because they're in your corner – I mean, along with the other guys – but you're working constantly with that guy. If I ever get an opportunity to take care of my catcher, I'm going to do so.

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