Luke Hochevar's descent continues.
Hochevar, the first overall selection in the 2006 draft, was the Kansas City Royals' Opening Day starter in 2011. He went 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA in 2012, and he'll be in the bullpen in 2013.
Hochevar entered spring training as a leading candidate to be the fifth starter, but before the Ides of March, he was told he was going to the bullpen. Left-hander Bruce Chen and right-hander Luis Mendoza remain the top candidates to earn the final rotation slot, although manager Ned Yost keeps saying left-hander Will Smith and rookie right-hander Yorando Ventura are still in the mix.
At the beginning of camp, Yost said Hochevar has the talent to be a 15-game winner in the majors, but he continues to struggle.
Yost attempted to put a positive spin on Hochevar's failure to claim a rotation slot.
"I think it makes us a better team, it makes us a stronger team, it gives us a better chance to win every day," the manager said. "With three weeks left, I want to get (Hochevar) acclimated to that role."
Hochevar has made just four relief appearances in the majors and only one since 2007. He's made 128 big-league starts. The 29-year-old right-hander has a 38-59 career record with a 5.39 ERA.
"Hochevar has yet to have major success, but has potential to have major success," Yost said.
Hochevar's spring training appearances have attracted a ton of scouts, but his $4.56 million salary for 2013 makes it tougher to deal him unless the Royals want to eat some of the money.
"I'm willing to take the ball in any position that I can to help the club," Hochevar said. "That's the bottom line, whether it is starting or relieving or whatever it is. My role is not important, what's important is when I take the ball, I'm helping the club."
The Royals are set at the back end of the bullpen with closer Greg Holland, right-handers Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera and left-hander Tim Collins. Yost said Hochevar could work the latter innings or be used as a long reliever.
"He's a guy that can come in and throw 94 miles an hour with a good breaking ball," Yost said. "He's a guy that can pitch multiple innings."
Hochevar pitched two spotless innings in relief March 15 in a split-squad, 7-5 victory over a Padres split squad. Hochevar threw 16 strikes in 23 pitches and struck out two.
"You get that shot of adrenaline, which is nice," Hochevar said of coming out of the bullpen. "It's kind of a different approach. You're not trying to establish anything or keep your pitch count down to get deep into the game. It's more like an attack, swing-and-miss kind of approach. I don't know how to explain it.
"I'm throwing all my breaking pitches from the get-go instead of trying to establish your fastball, working your changeup early and get early contact. You're just coming at them, trying to get outs. It's kind of what I took from it today. It's fun."