The maturation of Luke Hochevar?

      April 13, 2012 @ 16:45:39 PDT

Luke Hochevar's dark cloud of a start on Friday the 13th has a silver lining. Seriously.

Look beyond his disastrous first inning, when the Cleveland Indians tattooed the Kansas City Royals' hurler for seven runs on eight hits. It took him 34 pitches to escape the top half of the game's initial stanza. That did bad things to my Tout Wars team's ERA and WHIP.

Look beyond the Carlos Santana rope that pegged the right-handed pitcher in his left ankle as the fourth inning came to its conclusion. (That is, unless you were pleased to come up with an additional reason to cut bait. Sadist.) Fortunately, X-rays taken immediately afterward were negative. (Take that. Jerk.)

A player's final line rarely tells the entire story. After the Tribe tomahawked him, Hochevar responded admirably, with three shutout stanzas in which he allowed only one hit and one walk. He must've practically glided through Cleveland's order, requiring only 36 pitches to get through those frames.

By now, the strides that the 2006 No. 1 overall pick made after last year's All-Star break have been widely cited. But pitchers can never stop learning. Today, Hochevar didn't retreat, and he picked up yet another valuable lesson.

Managers, coaches, scouts, analysts, etc., will tell you that you can learn a lot about a pitcher by how he performs after the opposition has rocked him. Those who haven't yet faced such adversity, especially in the majors, usually crumble, continuing to let their opponent pick them apart until their skipper makes the long walk to remove them, mercifully. Hochevar has had plenty of games like that already, but likely none in which he's taken such action.

Hopefully, the deep contusion he sustained isn't too serious. This outing could do more for him than his first of this season, in which he pitched six shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ... maybe more than most other starts he's ever made.

Many fantasy baseball owners are going to run from Hochevar because of this performance. If they do, and you have the room, scoop him up. It wouldn't be surprising to see him be pretty sharp in his next appearance, whenever that may be. He'll be well-rested - and wiser.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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