Notes: Hochevar gets call for Sunday
Top pick from 2006 to make first Major League start in finale
KANSAS CITY -- Luke Hochevar will make his first Major League start Sunday afternoon against the Indians. Hochevar replaces Jorge De La Rosa, who would have made his second start since he returned from the disabled list.
"That is what I have done this whole year, and that is what I have done my whole life," Hochevar said. "I am excited to get the opportunity to face one of the best lineups in baseball. It will be a lot of fun."
Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has used 2007 as a developmental year. He went 3-6 with a 4.69 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for Double-A Wichita and finished 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A Omaha.
Mainly a sinker/slider pitcher at the University of Tennessee, Hochevar worked on his four-seam fastball and curveball this season. After four terrific starts to finish the Minor League season, Hochevar has impressed the Royals in September.
The right-hander has allowed one earned run and posted a 0.93 ERA in three long relief appearances. In his last outing, against the Tigers on Sunday afternoon, he relieved De La Rosa in the second inning and allowed one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Using his ever-developing curveball, Hochevar covered his 10 outs in only 47 pitches.
"That was our plan coming out of Spring Training, to make [the curveball] more consistent and better," Hochevar said. "That's why we focused on throwing the curveball more than the slider. My curveball, I feel, is my best pitch now. It has come a long ways. It has gotten a lot better and I have gotten a lot more consistent with it.
"It's really my go-to pitch now. It's nice to have the slider in my back pocket, but I have a lot of confidence in my curveball."
De La Rosa's season ends on a disappointing note. Considered the team's No. 2 starter in the first six weeks of the season, De La Rosa posted a 3.59 ERA and allowed 1.87 walks per nine innings through his first nine starts.
Then, De La Rosa posted a 7.59 ERA and his walk rate zoomed to 5.01 per nine innings in his final 17 appearances.
After missing six weeks with a left forearm strain, De La Rosa made three September appearances, including his one start. He allowed seven runs and four walks in 3 2/3 innings.
Like Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Billy Buckner and Luke Hudson, De La Rosa is considered a candidate for the 2008 rotation.
Finale for captain? Mike Sweeney is scheduled to play first base on Sunday for the Royals.
"It's a wild feeling because I don't know if Sunday is going to be my last game as a Royal," Sweeney said. "There's a chance of it but there's a chance I could come back next year."
His five-year contract is up and he can become a free agent. He's played just 73 games this season because of injuries.
"My back, thank God, has held up since the middle of last year, so I think my new workout has helped that," Sweeney said. "This year's injury, the knee surgery, was just kind of a weird thing. So, if I'm healthy next year, I'd love to play first base and maybe DH or however the team could need me. I've always been willing to strap on the gear as a third catcher. But it all depends on what team and what role they want me in."
Sweeney has spent half of his 34 years in the Royals' organization and is interested in staying. General manager Dayton Moore has said only that the Royals will evaluate their options.
"The Royals don't owe me a thing. They've been more than fair with me," Sweeney said. "I'm going to see how Dayton and the Glass family weigh out the next month or two with the new manager and see how Billy [Butler] is doing at first base in winter ball, and I'll respect their decision whether they invite me back or not."
Wedge pays Bell tribute: Indians manager Eric Wedge hugged Royals skipper Buddy Bell during batting practice Friday afternoon. Because Bell is resigning from his managerial post to spend more time with his family, this weekend will be the last time the two will manage against each other.
"Buddy is as special to me as anyone in the game," Wedge said. "Not just in baseball, but as a person. He exemplifies everything that's right about this game. His passion and the way he cares about players and the way he played and the way his teams play. I couldn't begin to tell you how much I learned from him.
"I think I got about 20 years out of him in 2 1/2 years. I probably drove him crazy in the process."
Moustakas takes batting practice: Mike Moustakas, the Royals' first-round pick in the 2007 Draft, dressed in the clubhouse and took BP with Royals players before Saturday's game.
Moustakas wore No. 11 and dressed between Hochevar's and De La Rosa's lockers. He threw with Butler and hit in the same group as Sweeney, Ross Gload and Emil Brown.
With his family, high school coach, Moore, scouting director Deric Ladnier and player development director J.J. Picollo looking on, the left-handed-hitting Moustakas lashed line drives all over the field. Later, Moustakas took ground balls at shortstop. During the game, Moustakas -- wearing a Royals hat -- received an ovation when he was pictured on the Jumbotron.
Bunts: Esteban German ended a streak of 102 at-bats without a homer Friday night with a two-run blast in the second inning. The homer gave the Royals their first runs in 19 innings. ... David DeJesus extended his club record with his 23rd hit-by-pitch of the season in the first inning on Saturday night. ... This date in Royals history: In 1976, Larry Gura tossed a complete game four-hitter, and Amos Otis went 2-for-4 with a homer to lead the Royals to their first division title.
Coming up: Two rookies will face off on Sunday in the final regular-season game of the year. Hochevar (0-0, 0.93 ERA) will face Indians left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.87). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. CT.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.