September 3, 2007
For the second time this season, a former Tennessee baseball player will be making his debut in Major League Baseball. Former UT All-America and 2005 Roger Clemens Award winner Luke Hochevar will be joining the Kansas City Royals Tuesday after a successful season with the Class AA Wichita Wranglers and the Class AAA Omaha Royals.
Hochevar lettered at Tennessee from 2003-05 and becomes the 33rd Vol ever to play in the Major Leagues. Earlier this summer, Hochevar’s former UT teammate Chase Headley (2004-05) was called up for a stint with the San Diego Padres.
Kansas City’s Tuesday game at Texas is expected to be Hochevar’s first day in a Royals uniform. It is reported that he will be used primarily as a reliever unless a spot opens in the club’s rotation.
“All of our player development people have recommended this,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said of Hochevar’s promotion. “This kid has a chance to compete next spring for our rotation. If that’s the case, then he should be here.”
In 17 appearances with Wichita early this season, Hochevar posted 94 strikeouts and a 4.69 ERA. He was selected to play in the Texas League All-Star Game as well as the MLB Futures All-Star Game before being promoted to Omaha, where he struck out 44 batters in 10 starts while limiting opposing hitters to a .244 average.
Hochevar arrived at Tennessee in the fall of 2002 after being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 39th round of the 2002 draft. After three outstanding seasons on Rocky Top, the Dodgers made the right-hander the 40th overall pick in 2005. Hochevar elected not to sign, however, and rose to become the No. 1 overall pick in 2006.
Hochevar credits much of his success to Tennessee pitching coach Fred Corral.
“First of all, it’s a tribute to the University of Tennessee that both Chase Headley and Luke Hochevar had an opportunity to make it to the big leagues in the same year,” Corral said. “Both of them are outstanding Vols and great representatives of the program.
“Luke being called up just shows the fruition of his day-to-day grind. It couldn’t have happened to a better ballplayer.”
A native of Fowler, Colo., Hochevar tied for the NCAA lead with 15 wins as a junior in 2005. He ranks third in UT’s career records book with 25 wins and 287 strikeouts. And he owns Tennessee’s single-season strikeouts record with 154 Ks in 2005.
Hochevar and Headley are the first two members of Tennessee’s 2005 College World Series team to reach the Major Leagues. Nine other members of that team—including four other first-rounders—are currently active in the minors.