Baseball's back! As we get closer to the regular season, stop by The Stew each morning for a daily helping of spring story lines.
Right-hander Luke Hochevar might need Tommy John ligament replacement surgery after sustaining a sprained UCL in his right elbow, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday. As it stands, Hochevar will miss at least two months.
Hochevar was a key member of the Kansas City Royals bullpen in 2013 and was competing this spring for a spot in the starting rotation. After feeling a twinge up his right arm, Hochevar threw one more pitch and finished his outing for the Royals on Monday afternoon. But an MRI revealed the sprain, along with strained muscle tissue around the joint. He's going to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' team physician, for a second opinion Tuesday.
After not finding success as a starting pitcher for five seasons after being a top draft pick, Hochevar emerged in 2013 as one of the top relievers in the majors, posting a 1.92 ERA with 82 strikeouts and only 41 hits allowed in 70 1/3 innings. Even without Hochevar, the Royals have a deep bullpen to set up closer Greg Holland, and there probably are better options — Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura — to be the team's fifth starter. But this injury is going to hurt, especially if Hochevar needs Tommy John and misses the entire season.
HAMELS HAS SETBACK: Left-hander Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies hoped to face live batters in a bullpen session Thursday morning, but he simply didn't feel up to it following a rough session Saturday. Hamels suffered biceps tendinitis in November and it's held back his progress ever since. Reporter Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes:
"I believe I threw 35 pitches," Hamels said. "To my body, it felt like a thousand."
Hamels will be shut down for at least a week.
ALEX GUERRERO HITS SLAM: The video cuts away before we can see it, but Alex Guerrero of the Dodgers does a bat flip after making contact with the bases loaded against Jeff Francis of the Reds. The ball barely cleared the fence in left for a grand slam, but it counts for four bases and as many runs. Not only was it encouraging to see him homer, but it's fun to see some personality from the Cuban emigre — even if his depth perception is cutting it close. As Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes, the jury remains out on whether he can handle the transition from shortstop to second base.
MACHADO ADVANCES: Cleared for lateral work, Manny Machado took side-to-side soft-toss grounders for the first time at Baltimore Orioles camp, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O's have been hoping Machado will be ready for opening day after undergoing knee surgery in October.
LATOS ASCENDS MOUND: Right-hander Mat Latos threw from the pitcher's mound for the first time since having knee surgery Feb. 14 to repair a meniscus tear. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports:
Latos threw 20 pitches, including five changeups. The rest, he said, were two-seam and four-seam fastballs.
“Everything feels fantastic,” Latos said. “I expected a little bit of soreness while I was throwing or to feel it once or twice. I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing. My mechanics were a little off. The ball was up but that’s to be expected. I’m almost three weeks late.”
ANKIEL OVER: In case you missed it on The Stew on Wednesday, Rick Ankiel has retired after a unique career as a pitcher and an outfielder.
The Dodgers say Yasiel Puig is OK after leaving the team's game Wednesday earlier than scheduled because of upper back discomfort. Puig told teammates he felt better after getting treatment.
Manager Don Mattingly said trainer Stan Conte believed Puig would be able to play Thursday against the Angels in Tempe.
"I don't try to figure out Yasiel," said Mattingly. "He's had shoulder, different things. I'm not too concerned as long as tomorrow he can play."
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