Right-hander Luke Hochevar, one of the prime candidates for the last two spots in the Royals’ rotation, was optioned on Tuesday to Triple-A Omaha.
Hochevar’s departure cuts the list of starting aspirants to three, right-handers Sidney Ponson and Brian Bannister and left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
In five Cactus League games, Hochevar had a 3.86 ERA and a 1-0 record. In 16 1/3 innings, he gave up 17 hits and seven runs with four walks and seven strikeouts. Opponents hit .279 against him.
The first overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Free Agent Draft, Hochevar was brought into the rotation last April 20 after opening the season with Omaha. He made 22 starts for the Royals, going 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA before his season ended on Aug. 20 because of a rib-cage injury.
In this camp, he was not bothered by the injury. In his last Cactus League start, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he gave up three runs in the first inning but then worked three scoreless innings.
His candidacy for the rotation might have taken a hit when the Royals signed veteran Sidney Ponson who was immediately put into the mix. Ponson was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Oakland A’s.
Hochevar’s departure still leaves 36 players in camp including 18 pitchers, three catchers, 10 infielders and five outfielders. The Royals break camp on Thursday.