SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas City Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar will have Tommy John surgery that will sideline the pitcher for the season.
Hochevar felt a twinge in his elbow on the next-to-last pitch of a scoreless two-inning outing Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
An MRI on Tuesday revealed a major tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. The severity of the injury was confirmed Thursday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
"What I didn't want to hear," Hochevar said Friday.
Hochevar missed nearly three months in 2010 with a sprained right elbow, making just 17 starts that season.
"I knew this day was coming," Hochevar said. "After the first time I hurt it, I knew it was coming. I'm extremely thankful it held up for four years."
The 30-year-old Hochevar went 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA and two saves in 58 relief appearances last season. He held opponents to a .169 batting average, which ranked third among AL relievers with at least 60 innings.
Hochevar switched to the bullpen last year after going 38-59 with a 5.44 ERA in 128 career starts.
Hochevar was the first player picked in the 2006 draft. He will make $5.21 million this year and is eligible for free agency after this season.
"We wouldn't rule Luke out for the future," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "We'll hopefully be able to keep him in the organization going forward."
Free agency, however, was not on Hochevar's mind with surgery pending to replace the ligament in his elbow.
"That is irrelevant right now," Hochevar said. "That will all fall into play if I'm healthy and I can pitch."
Manager Ned Yost said Hochevar decided to have surgery in the next weeks instead of instead of rest and rehab for two months.
"This thing is going to blow," Yost said of Hochevar's ligament. "It is going to go, sooner or later."
The Royals won 86 games last year, their most victories since the 1989 club went 92-70. Kansas City hasn't been in the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series.
"The toughest part about it is we're primed this year to win," Hochevar said. "You want to be part of that dog pile in September. The way the team's shaping up, we're going to win. That's not a doubt from every standpoint."
"I want to be a part of it. It is just not going to happen," he said.
Right-handers Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow and left-hander Tim Collins will likely be the primary setup men for closer Greg Holland in Hochevar's absence.