Top pick Hochevar finally makes debut

Hochevar finally makes debut

The wait is over for Luke Hochevar.

After sitting out a year, the 2006 No. 1 overall pick made his Minor League debut with two hitless innings in Burlington's 11-1 loss to visiting South Bend on Wednesday.

"I felt good," Hochevar said. "It was good to get out there and put a uniform out there and compete. I was looking forward to it. I was ready to take the mound in a game situation. I've been waiting to pitch for a long time."

Hochevar hadn't pitched in a game since making four starts for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association prior the June draft, when Kansas City took him with the top pick.

But the 22-year-old right-hander did not show any signs of rust, tossing 32 pitches in a limited pitch count. He struck out two and retired six of the seven batters he faced, with the only baserunner coming on an error in the second.

"I threw my fastball, change-up and curveball," Hochevar said. "I was able to get into counts where I can use all my pitches. That was really the key, where I could sharpen all my pitches and get into that mode."

The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder's first strikeout victim was 2005 No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton to end the opening frame. Hochevar fanned Upton on a 3-2 fastball, but the Silver Hawks center fielder dominated after that, finishing 2-for-4 with a homer, two runs scored, and three RBIs.

"Justin's a good hitter. I have a lot of respect for him," Hochevar said. "I saw him swing the past two nights that he was here and he put some good swings on there."

Hochevar went 15-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 19 starts with the University of Tennessee in his junior season and was selected by the Dodgers as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds in 2005. But he decided not to sign with Los Angeles, even if it meant sitting out a year.

"I understand the business side of things needed to get done, but I'm just glad to be back out there and competing," said Hochevar.

The Fowler, Colo., native is expected to make his next start Monday, and this time he will be on a 50-pitch limit. Hochevar is already thinking about how he can improve on this performance.

"I think I need to execute a little better," he said. "Everything felt like it was coming out pretty good and I had a good feel for my pitches. But I want to locate my fastball down in the zone better and be more consistent with my change-up."

South Bend starter Vincent Bongiovanni (5-2) allowed one run on three hits with two strikeouts and six walks in five innings.

Steve Mena finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, three RBIs and a home run for the Silver Hawks (33-19).

Bees reliever Mario Santiago (2-5) took the loss and was charged with nine runs -- eight earned -- on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Brady Everett scored the only run for Burlington (22-31).

Eric Justic is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.