Royals camp notebook: Ponson projects as fourth starter after Hochevar sent to Omaha

PHOENIX | The Royals moved to firm up their rotation Tuesday morning by optioning right-hander Luke Hochevar to Class AAA Omaha before their game against Oakland at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

The move clears the way for veteran right-hander Sidney Ponson to secure the fourth spot in the rotation. Ponson started Tuesday against the A’s, which puts him on track to pitch the home opener, April 10 against the Yankees, on normal rest.

Hochevar, 25, pitched well this spring but became the odd-man out in the club’s quest for inventory once Ponson, 32, joined the club March 17 by signing a minor-league contract.

The roster move reduces the big-league camp roster to 36 players. All teams must be down to 25 by 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Royals appear likely to open the season with four starting pitchers because of three open dates in their April schedule. Veteran lefty Horacio Ramirez is positioned to open the season in the bullpen before inheriting the fifth spot in the rotation.

No presidential appearance

President Barack Obama won’t be attending the Royals’ opener next Monday in Chicago against his beloved White Sox as once seemed likely. Obama departed Tuesday from Washington for an eight-day European trip to attend a G-20 meeting of the world’s major economic powers and a NATO summit.

Looking back

It was 40 years ago Wednesday -- April 1, 1969 -- that the Royals obtained outfielder Lou Piniella on the eve of their inaugural season from the Seattle Pilots in a trade for outfielder Steve Whitaker and pitcher John Gelnar.

Piniella went on to become the American League Rookie of the Year after batting .282 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs in 135 games. He spent five years with the Royals before going to the Yankees in a Dec. 7, 1973 trade with pitcher Ken Wright for pitcher Lindy McDaniel.

Piniella played 11 seasons for the Yankees before retiring after playing just 29 games in 1984. He is the current manager of the Chicago Cubs.

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