OK, so all you guys have heard me do lately is gripe and moan that Luke Hochevar needs to be called up from Triple-A Omaha. I'm sure you're probably tired of hearing me speak on the subject, but I can't help myself. He is off to a scorching start for the O'Royals, and the big league club is missing out.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Royals are one transaction away from having the best rotation in baseball. They may not have all the "names" that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have, but they are quickly going to become household names if they continue to tear through lineups at this pace.
I never thought I'd hear myself say it this soon, but Dayton Moore has put this team on a fast track to a championship. They can easily win the division this year if the starting rotation can stay intact. Yes, I say that despite the fact that the offense hasn't been particularly stunning thus far. Add a couple more bats* next season and this team could contend for a crown.
*Jose Guillen stepped up with two monster homers last night - his first two of the season - and history has shown that when he gets on a tear the rest of the lineup follows. It was no surprise they won 7-1. Miguel Olivo homered as well. Maybe nights like that can jump-start the offense.
Hochevar tossed six innings, struck out seven, allowed four hits and walked two as Omaha drilled Oklahoma City 8-1 yesterday. He improved his record to 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings on the hill. Clearly, he's figured something out working with Bob McClure this offseason, and appears to have worked out the kinks in his delivery.
We all know he has outstanding ability on the hill. We have already witnessed flashes of dominance from the kid in the big leagues. There were times he would stifle hitters, then get his brains bashed in the next inning. That's what many young pitchers do. Greinke did it his first three years in the bigs. Hochevar figured some things out during his time in the big leagues last year, and he was very good this spring. He seems to have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is ready for the call.
Scouts project Hoch to be a darn good No. 2 or 3 starter in the bigs. This year he won't have the pressure of living up to those expectations because of the outstanding performances of the top three in the rotation (Meche, Greinke and Davies). That is fantastic for Luke. Two years ago he would have been expected to be one of the top three. Kyle Davies has taken that pressure off of him. This is the perfect situation for his growth in the big leagues.
Another factor is the emergence of Brian Bannister. Since being recalled from Omaha he has turned in two solid performances. He is showing signs of returning to his 2007 form, when he nearly won AL Rookie of the Year. Banny knows he won't always get away with allowing one run when he walks six batters like he did in his last start, but when your pitch to your spots and miss bats (to the tune of allowing one hit through six innings) you are going to have success.
Also, Sidney Ponson has been a serviceable guy thus far in the rotation. I understand he probably hasn't done anything to rile Royals fans yet - he's turned in two "quality" starts so far - which is a pleasant surprise for the club. But realistic baseball people know what Ponson is. He's been mediocre throughout his career, and that's exactly what his stats have shown thus far.
To be fair, Ponson hasn't received much run support at all in his starts, and he should have a couple more wins already. Regardless, his ERA is over 5.00 and is going to hover in that range all year. A lot of teams would be happy with that. Any other year and the Royals would have been ecstatic if their No. 1 guy could give them that, but not in 2009. These Royals pitchers are a new breed.
Look, I am not naive enough to think that Hochevar will post a sub-2.00 ERA in the big leagues. But you would be naive to think that he wouldn't be an upgrade over Ponson. Ponson could move to the pen and give this team a shot in the arm, in that respect. As far as I'm concerned Banny could move to the 'pen. That might be the better move. It would limit his exposure every fifth day, and keep Ponson in the rotation at No. 5. That would also work. Anything to keep Horacio Ramirez in the 'pen would be great.
But to leave Hochevar in the minors when he's pitching this good is a waste. If they wanted to let him dominate and boost his confidence, fine. It's been accomplished. I'll admit it has been a luxury for the big league rotation to be solid, because has kept the organization from rushing Hochevar. They don't REALLY need him right now, but any team would be foolish not to find a way to fit a guy like him in somewhere.
So, GMDM ... it's time. He's ready. Reward the kid. Let's get to the playoffs.