Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, was a key part of a Royals bullpen that led the American League with a 2.55 ERA in 2013. After spending five major league seasons trying to make it as a starter, the right-hander settled into a relief role last year and found immediate success. He posted a 1.92 ERA in 70⅓ innings over 58 appearances while striking out 82 batters and issuing only 17 walks. He is eligible for free agency after this season.
Given the timing of the injury and the budget of the team, the Royals are likely to find an in-house replacement for the 31-year-old. Kansas City still boasts several strong relievers, including All-Star closer Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera, each of whom posted a better-than-average ERA with at least eight strikeouts per nine innings last year. General manager Dayton Moore had this to say, via Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:
We're going to look internally first,'' Moore said. "We feel like we have the depth and the numbers necessary.
Royals release Penny
Penny was attempting to make a comeback with the Royals after his 2012 season deteriorated into an international disaster. He signed to play in Japan but claimed to be hurt early in the season despite the fact that multiple MRI's showed no injury. After a brief stint with the Giants later that year, Penny opted to sit out the 2013 campaign in order to rest his arm and prepare for a return in 2014.
The comeback attempt is not going well. The 35-year-old surrendered seven runs on 13 hits in only four innings of work in his two appearances this spring, then injured his non-pitching hand punching a wall in frustration after his outing on Thursday.
There are conflicting reports as to why the team decided to cut the right-hander. Crasnick says that the self-inflicted injury played a role in the club's decision, whereas Chris Cotillo of SB Nation claims that the Royals didn't see a spot for Penny on their roster and released him so that he would have a chance to catch on somewhere else. Cotillo also mentions that Penny brings with him no injury concerns relating to his pitching arm.
D'Backs sign Perez
Perez joins an Arizona bullpen that will be anchored by newly acquired closer Addison Reed. The Diamondbacks also have Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez and Will Harris, along with lefties Joe Thatcher and Matt Reynolds, so depth should not be a problem in the early going.
Perez thrived in a relief role for the Seattle Mariners over the last two seasons after washing out of both the Pirates and Mets organizations as a starting pitcher. Last year, he appeared in 61 games and posted a 3.74 ERA in 53 innings while striking out 74 batters. Among pitchers with at least 40 innings, his 12.57 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 11th in the majors. His signing by Arizona general manager Kevin Towers completes a career loop that began when Towers, then the GM of the Padres, dealt a young Perez to the Pirates in a trade for Brian Giles.