CLEVELAND | Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar is heading to the disabled list, perhaps for an extended stay, after suffering a perplexing bruise above his right rib cage in Tuesday’s 9-4 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.
Hochevar remained at a loss Wednesday to explain the cause of the injury, which surfaced as he was throwing warm-up pitches in the sixth inning.
What was certain is he remained in pain.
"It’s about the same," Hochevar admitted. "Sitting still hurts. Standing up feels the best. Some pain medicine helped me sleep. As long as I didn’t move, I was all right."
The Royals replaced Hochevar by recalling reliever Josh Newman from Class AAA Omaha. Actually, Newman never reached Omaha — he was still in Ohio after being optioned Tuesday to the O-Royals to clear space for just-signed Kip Wells.
Newman allowed three runs in six innings over three appearances for the Royals after joining the club Aug. 10 from Omaha.
Hochevar still had trouble drawing deep breaths Wednesday as he departed for X-rays as a follow-up to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination.
"He has a right rib contusion," manager Trey Hillman said. "We don’t know how he got it. There wasn’t any impact. He hadn’t been in any barroom brawls or fallen on any chairs or any of that stuff.
"We don’t know definitively from the MRI whether there is more than a bruise. Best-case scenario, it’s just a 15-day DL, and he can get some more work in this season. But it’s not going to be one of those things where we’re going to force it."
Hochevar, 24, is 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA in 22 starts but has struggled over the last seven weeks in losing seven of his last eight decisions.
So who starts Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium? The early line favorites are Kyle Davies and Brandon Duckworth, although Wells remains a possibility over Duckworth for Sunday’s game.
Hillman gave little away before Wednesday’s game.
"As of right now, we’re TBA for Saturday and Sunday," he said. "The options will probably come from the Triple-A club. So we’ll see what gets suggested in the next couple of days."
Hillman said it was "very doubtful" the Royals would use a bullpen committee for either game.
Summoning either Davies or Duckworth presents procedural problems.
Davies was optioned Aug. 15 to Omaha and must remain at least 10 days in the minors unless replacing a player requiring time on the disabled list. That could be reliever Ron Mahay, who has made only one appearance since Aug. 6 because of a sore left foot.
Nonetheless, the Royals positioned Davies for a recall by limiting him to one inning Tuesday after his scheduled start Monday was rained out.
Adding Duckworth would require a space-clearing move on the 40-man roster. Duckworth pitched five shutout innings Tuesday and could pitch Sunday on four days rest.
The Royals could opt for Wells, who worked primarily as a starter throughout his 10-year career. But he has pitched only 3 1/3 innings since July 31.
"Probably not," Hillman said. "I think we’re going to leave him alone and leave him in the bullpen."
Left-handed pitcher Jimmy Gobble continues to exhibit command and control problems at Omaha as he recovers from tightness in his lower back. He has allowed eight runs and 12 hits in 9 1/3 innings over four appearances. He has 12 strikeouts but also seven walks.
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek is scheduled to return to Kansas City, probably on the upcoming homestand, for a follow-up examination on a torn deltoid ligament in his right ankle. He is currently recovering at home in San Diego.
Outfielder Joey Gathright appears recovered from the bone bruise on his right shoulder but is batting just .156 through eight games at Class AAA Omaha. He went one for eight Tuesday in a double-header sweep at Oklahoma.
Infielder Alberto Callaspo is two for eight through two games at Omaha after getting two hits in Tuesday’s opener. He is working on his timing after being placed on the disabled list June 28 for unspecified medical reasons following a citation for driving under the influence.
Pitcher John Bale, out since April 15, is testing his hand and shoulder by throwing live batting practice at the organization’s year-round facility in Surprise, Ariz. He is recovering from a broken hand and a fatigued shoulder.
The 20-day rehab clock has already started for Gathright and Callaspo.
Gathright began playing Aug. 8, which means the Royals must make a decision on him before big-league rosters expand Sept. 1 to 40 players. He is out of options. Callaspo is also out of options but didn’t start playing until last Sunday. He can remain at Omaha until the rosters expand.
Gobble’s rehab clock is also running, but the rules allow 30 days for a pitcher. He is out of options but didn’t make his first appearance Aug. 2, which means he can remain at Omaha until the rosters expand.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas contributed an RBI single Tuesday to Class A Burlington’s 5-1 victory at Quad Cities. The Bees have won six in a row and lead the Midwest League Western Division by 4½ games with 12 games remaining.
Alex Gordon returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game because of a sore lower back.
The Royals entered Wednesday’s game with only 10 hits in their last 56 at-bats with runners in scoring position.