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Royals notebook: Hochevar’s anticipated start marks end of four-man rotation

TORONTO | The Royals will end nearly two weeks of employing a four-man rotation Saturday afternoon by recalling right-hander Luke Hochevar from Class AAA Omaha for their 12:07 p.m. Central time game against the Blue Jays.

Manager Trey Hillman confirmed Hochevar as today’s starter after Friday’s 9-3 loss to Toronto at the Rogers Centre. The move was expected after the Royals limited Hochevar to just 33 pitches Tuesday in his last start for the O-Royals.

It remains uncertain how the club will clear roster space for Hochevar. General manager Dayton Moore joined the traveling party prior to Friday’s game with plans to discuss that decision with Hillman and other staff members.

The likeliest move, barring an injury, would be to option reliever Roman Colon to Omaha, but several veteran relievers have pitched poorly and could be at risk.

Hochevar figures to get an extended look this time in the rotation after making just three starts in his last tour before returning to Omaha.

While the Royals have open dates on each of the next three Mondays, Hillman indicated they are likely to roll a five-man rotation rather than make adjustments to allow, say, Zack Greinke or Gil Meche to pitch every fifth day.

“I think we’re leaning toward giving everybody an extra day,” Hillman said. “We discussed that today, and haven’t come up with anything definitive. We’re looking at workloads and (will probably) keep everybody where they are.”

The Royals went 2-9 while employing a four-man rotation after sending Hochevar to Omaha following his May 23 start at St. Louis.

“We kind of forced the issue by going with four men,” Hillman admitted. “Obviously, it didn’t pay dividends for us -- mostly because of a lack of offensive production rather than what they’ve done on the mound.”

The four starters -- Greinke, Meche, Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies -- combined in the last 11 games to allow 39 earned runs in 62 1/3 innings for a 5.63 ERA.

Hochevar was 0-2 with a 10.90 ERA in three starts before returning to Omaha, where he allowed four runs and 13 hits in eight innings over two starts.

Coincidentally, Hochevar’s start today comes on the three-year anniversary of his selection by the Royals with the first overall pick in the 2006 first-year player draft.

Closely watched

Two right shoulders getting close daily scrutiny -- those belonging to closer Joakim Soria and center fielder Coco Crisp -- were cleared Friday for action.

Crisp made his second straight start after eight days of rest, including three while on bereavement leave following the death of his great grandmother. He had a walk in four plate appearances.

Soria wasn’t needed after being held out Thursday, when he was unavailable after throwing 13 pitches Wednesday in his first big-league action since May 7. His unavailability Thursday forced Hillman to realign his bullpen in a vain effort to protect a late lead in a 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay. Unit accounting

The Royals played their part in helping Randy Johnson reach 300 victories. They were 8-15 in the 29 games against the Big Unit.

Johnson rang up more victories against just six other clubs: 19 vs. the Rockies; 18 vs. the Brewers; and 16 vs. the Angels, Padres, Rangers and Red Sox.

Johnson became the 24th pitcher to reach 300 victories Thursday in San Francisco’s 5-1 victory at Washington.

Looking back

It was 18 years ago today -- June 6, 1991 -- that the Royals played the longest game in their history: 6 hours, 28 minutes in a 4-3 victory over Texas in 18 innings at then-Royals Stadium.

Kevin Seitzer, the club’s current hitting coach, scored from second base on a throwing error by Kenny Rogers on a sacrifice bunt by Kurt Stillwell. Rogers would go on to win five Gold Gloves for fielding excellence in his 20-year career.

The starting pitchers were Bret Saberhagen and Nolan Ryan. Both went seven innings and allowed two runs. Both teams scored once in the ninth. The Royals forced extra innings on a pinch homer by Carmelo Martinez against Jeff Russell.

Etc.

HTML is •Friday was the 20-year anniversary of the first baseball game played at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as Skydome. The Blue Jays lost 5-3 to Milwaukee in that first game.

HTML is •Willie Bloomquist started in left field because Hillman chose to bench David DeJesus against Toronto starter Ricky Romero. DeJesus is batting .167 against lefties.

HTML is •The Royals, on Friday, completed the first one-third of their season at 23-31. They were 21-33 last year through 54 games.

To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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