Royals righthander Luke Hochevar likely will miss at least the first two months of the season because of a sprained ligament in his right elbow.
Hochevar, the first pick in the 2006 draft, was hurt Monday while pitching to Matt Davidson, his final batter during a two-inning outing against the White Sox. The sprain was revealed in an MRI taken Tuesday.
Manager Ned Yost said Wednesday that Hochevar won’t throw for 2-3 weeks and ‘‘probably the best-case scenario’’ would be a return at the end of May or early June.
‘‘His second-to-the-last pitch against the White Sox he felt a twinge in his elbow,’’ Yost said. ‘‘He ended up throwing a cutter to strike the guy out. He felt OK coming in, but the next day it was real stiff and sore.’’
Hochevar was 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA and two saves in 58 relief appearances last year. He is earning $5.21 million and is eligible for free agency after the season.
He was sidelined from mid-June until mid-September in 2010 because of a sprained elbow and made only 17 starts and one relief appearance that year.
‘‘We were a little nervous that it could have been worse,’’ Yost said. ‘‘We think we got as good a report as we'd hoped for coming back. But, again, you really won’t know until three weeks to see exactly where we’re at.’’
Hochevar was a candidate for the final rotation slot this season. Yost said Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, and rookie Yordano Ventura are ‘‘realistically fighting for that spot’’ and Hochevar would pitch from the bullpen when he returns.
Saunders signsVeteran lefthander Joe Saunders will get a chance to earn a spot in the Texas rotation after finalizing a one-year contract that guarantees him the $500,000 minimum.
Saunders’s salary would increase to $1.5 million if he makes the team. He can earn performance bonuses in addition to his salary under the deal completed Tuesday.
With injured lefty Derek Holland expected to be out at least half the season after knee surgery, Saunders joined the team in Arizona Wednesday to provide another potential starting option.
‘‘I feel like I'm right on track,’’ said Saunders, who had been throwing bullpen sessions on his own.
Saunders has an 89-81 career record with a 4.30 ERA in 221 games, all starts with the Angels (2005-10), Arizona (2010-12), Baltimore (2012), and Seattle (2013). The 32-year-old was 11-16 with a career-high 5.26 ERA in 32 starts last season before Seattle declined his 2014 option.
Bonus for Harvey
Matt Harvey may not throw a single pitch this season because of an injured elbow, but he’s already earned $60,000 in bonuses.
The 2014 contract of the Mets star contains unusual provisions that reward him for 2013 accomplishments.
Harvey has earned a $10,000 bonus for making last year’s All-Star team and $50,000 for finishing tied for fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting under the deal.
Represented by agent Scott Boras, Harvey becomes eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season.
‘‘It’s always nice. I just found about it when they were doing all that stuff,’’ Harvey said at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. ‘‘I let Scott take care of all that stuff. I just play.’’