Hochevar Fans Nine In Cats Regular Season Debut

In his first two outings of the season, Luke Hochevar has shown plenty to convince scouts that he could be a welcome addition to the 2006 draft.

In his first official start for the independent Fort Worth Cats, Luke Hochevar showed much of the same stuff he flashed in his exhibition outing.

The righthander’s velocity was down a little from his first start, but he also showed improved command, as he allowed four hits, two runs and three walks while striking out nine in five innings of work. He threw roughly 50 pitches before heading to the showers.

The former Tennessee Volunteer standout predominantly threw his fastball, which sat between 89-94 mph. The approximately 20 scouts in attendance also saw him mix in his slider and changeup while he used his curveball only sparingly.

His outing started strongly as Hochevar struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches, mainly fastballs. He also struck out the next batter, this time on four pitches, and ended the inning with a ground ball out.

But it was in the second inning that he ran into trouble. After striking out the first hitter, he surrendered a home run after getting a fastball up in the strike zone. Hochevar then walked the next batter before settling down for the rest of his outing.

Fort Worth pitching coach Dan Smith noticed one major difference between Luke’s first and second starts for the Cats.

“Tonight I thought he was more composed,” he said. “He had a game plan instead of just going out there and trying to throw 98. He pitched tonight, tried to locate his fastball and rely on movement. He showed a great breaking ball tonight. The poise that he had was great.”

For Hochevar, the major difference between his first start and his latest outing was that the control problems that surfaced on Monday never appeared on Saturday.

“I executed my fastball a lot better,” he said. “My off-speed was also quite a bit better. Today I had quite a bit more command of it. I was in more control and had a better plan with these hitters. I knew how to pitch them, stuck with my plan and it worked out well.”

Hochevar said there is no substitute for a meaningful game.

“Up to this point, I was feeling pretty good about my outings,” he said. “In my simulated games and scrimmages, I was feeling good about my stuff and had confidence that I could execute it.”

“There is a difference getting into a game in the game atmosphere,” he said. “After my first couple of exhibition games, I was ready to go. This one just topped it off.”

The Dodgers, who took him in the supplemental first round (40th overall) in 2005, retain his draft rights until May 31. If they remain unable to sign him, Hochevar will go back into the draft, which is set for June 6.

He is scheduled to make four more starts for the Cats leading up to his final start for them on June 4, which will be just two days prior to the draft.