KANSAS CITY -- When former Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar had thoracic outlet surgery to alleviate pain in his lower neck and shoulder area two years ago this month, he still held out hope that he would one day pitch again in the Major Leagues.But that dream ended last year when
KANSAS CITY -- When former Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar had thoracic outlet surgery to alleviate pain in his lower neck and shoulder area two years ago this month, he still held out hope that he would one day pitch again in the Major Leagues.
But that dream ended last year when Hochevar found he was unable to throw again without pain. Hochevar, 34, told MLB.com he has retired from the game.
Hochevar, who was at Kauffman Stadium over the weekend as part of a celebration honoring the 2015 World Series championship team, said he tried to rehab from TOS surgery in 2016 and '17, but it became evident last year he would not be able to pitch again.
"There was just no way," Hochevar said. "That was it. I got up to the 80 percent [recovery] which you're supposed to and it just wasn't working. It was hurting just to throw. No way I could have ever gotten back to this level to get guys out. Just too much pain.
"I mean, it hurt to throw out [the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday]. But I'm very happy with where I am. Very content. I'm thankful for all I had in this game. The game was very good to me. I had a long run. I'm happy with that. Now I get to do things anytime I want. I get to farm. I get to have my ministry hunts. It's all good."
Hochevar spends much of his time on his farm near Knoxville, Tenn., enjoying fellowship with friends.
"We do a lot of duck hunting," Hochevar said. "Duck hunting is a lot like the bullpen. There's a lot of just sitting around and talking, and then all of a sudden there's a lot of action. And then there's a bunch of sitting around and talking again."
Hochevar, the first overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, became a huge success with the Royals in 2013 when he transitioned to the bullpen from the rotation. He had a 1.92 ERA in 58 games in '13, and he was a key part of the dominant Royals bullpen that season and in '15.
Coming back to Kauffman Stadium and visiting with former teammates from that championship season in 2015 was special.
"It was incredible," Hochevar said. "Just driving up to the ballpark again was amazing, driving up on the highway, seeing the stadium pop up on the horizon. It brought back so many memories. Seeing all the guys again brought back memories. You get in the clubhouse and you feel like putting the uniform back on.
"But I'm grateful for the time I had in this game."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.