Fifth-starter candidates Chen, Hochevar look sharp

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Both candidates for the Royals' No. 5 starting job got a thumb's up from manager Ned Yost after Tuesday's 8-2 victory over the Athletics.

Left-hander Bruce Chen started and gave up one run on two hits in his three innings. Right-hander Luke Hochevar held the A's scoreless in his three innings, surrendering three hits and a walk.

"I thought Chen threw the ball extremely well and Bruce looks like he's in midseason form. He's commanding his pitches very well, he's very efficient, getting fairly quick outs and I thought he threw the ball excellent," Yost said.

"Hoch's stuff right now is electric. He's got good velocity on his fastball. His changeup, he's throwing it really good. His stuff's good but, as he went out in his second and third inning, he started to narrow his command down a little bit too. So good outings by both of them."

This was the second outing for the pair. Hochevar finished with a flurry of three strikeouts in the sixth inning.

"I'm not quite there, but I feel like it's coming along good," Hochevar said.

The big right-hander also benefited from a terrific play to start the fourth. Third baseman Mike Moustakas charged in to snare Chris Young's chopper and fired off a low throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer, who pulled it out of the dirt for the out.

"They were both tremendous plays. I don't know how you can judge which play is better," Yost said. "The pick was phenomenal, but the play was tremendous, too. We're playing good defense. I guess it's getting repetitious, but we're doing a lot of things extremely well."

Hochevar threw 56 pitches including 33 strikes. Chen's numbers were 44-29.

"I felt like I had really good command of my pitches," Chen said. "I felt like I was commanding the strike zone and [Brett] Hayes did a real good job of calling the game. This was his first time catching me in a real game and it was good to be able to go out there and throw three innings."

Hayes seconded Yost's view about how well both pitchers threw.

"What else can I say? They both did a great job today," Hayes said. "Bruce was very aggressive, threw all his pitches for strikes. A guy throwing like he does, they don't expect him to come after them like that, so he was very effective. Hoch has power stuff and his curveball was great today, his changeup was excellent. That's what these guys have to do: show their stuff and they both had great stuff."

Based just on these early performances, it could be tough to pick the fifth starter.

"I'm glad it's not my job to do that," Hayes said. "We've got excellent pitching here, I'm just here to catch 'em."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.