SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Kansas City Royals suffered a significant blow to their bullpen Friday when they learned that reliever Luke Hochevar will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and miss the 2014 season.
Hochevar, 30, went 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA last season while striking out 82 batters in 70 1/3 innings. His injury will weaken a Kansas City bullpen that led the American League with a 2.55 ERA last year and ranked sixth in the AL with 491 strikeouts.
The Royals initially diagnosed Hochevar's injury as a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. But manager Ned Yost said subsequent tests revealed that Hochevar's UCL might be as much as 65 percent torn. Hochever had previously suffered a 20-45 percent tear in 2010 and was able to come back and pitch without undergoing surgery.
Yost said he expects the procedure to take place sometime in the next two weeks.
"It's inevitable that this thing is going to go, so it's in everybody's best interests that we just go ahead and do it now,'' Yost said. "With a 50 percent tear and as much as a 65 percent tear, he wouldn't be even what he was last year. So it would be a constant battle -- a constant, every time on the mound: 'Is this the day?'
"It's common sense. What's best for our organization and what's best for Luke Hochevar is to go ahead and do it now.''
Hochevar, the first overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft, is one of the senior members of the Kansas City roster along with Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. He's making $5.2 million this season and will be eligible for free agency in November.
"This is a kid who's played his heart out for the Royals in this rebuilding process,'' Yost said. "He's given us everything he's got. He's a phenomenal young man, he's a tremendous teammate, and you really, really want to see him be a part of this. It's extremely hard.''
General manager Dayton Moore and Yost said the Royals will probably fill the void in their bullpen from within. The Royals' contingent of setup and middle relievers in front of closer Greg Holland includes Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman and Wade Davis from the right side and Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno from the left.
"We're going to look internally first,'' Moore said. "We feel like we have the depth and the numbers necessary. I don't know if it'll be as outstanding as Luke was last year. But we have some talented arms. You plan worst-case scenario, so we're constantly looking.''