Several of the Royals' better pitching prospects finished the season nursing injuries, and the news got a little bit worse today, as Luke Hochevar withdrew from the Arizona Fall League due to tightness in his right shoulder.
The Royals stressed that this was just a precautionary move, and that the tightness is likely due to fatigue. That seems troubling at first glance, since Hochevar has thrown just 53.2 innings this season (including his time with the independent Fort Worth Cats). However, it's important to remember that Hochevar maintained a rigorous training schedule over the summer, complete with a full simulated game every five days, so his total innings pitched can be a somewhat deceptive measure of how much he's actually pitched this year. It's certainly not good news, but right now there doesn't seem to be anything to suggest that this is anything other than the Royals simply being as cautious as possible with their highest draft pick in history.
Hochevar was scheduled to start in Friday's "Rising Stars Showcase" at Surprise Stadium, but he will instead return to Kansas City for an MRI. His first professional season comes to a close after pitching 31 innings between Burlington, Wichita, and the AFL, in which he compiled a 1-2 record with an ERA of 5.23. Hochevar struck out 33 batters while walking seven and allowing 29 hits (1.16 WHIP).
The news about Hochevar came on the same day that fellow top pitching prospect Erik Cordier underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Dr. Andrews was to perform the procedure in Birmingham on Thursday. An MRI taken back in August had revealed less damage than feared, and the prognosis at the time appeared good, but a second MRI revealed the tear that required surgery. He will now likely miss the entire 2007 season, which is a huge disappointment, given the high hopes the organization has for Cordier.
Paul Raglione, another highly-touted pitcher who was drafted in 2005, also underwent Tommy John surgery in September, and he's presently rehabbing in Arizona. No word on when Raglione might return to the mound, but he's probably likely to miss at least half of the 2007 season.
Raglione had a solid season before being shut down with elbow soreness