24-year-old Richard Lovelady is coming off a rough 2019 season with the KC Royals. That hasn’t stopped him from being great this spring, though.
Spring training means something different for each and every player. For a lot of members of the KC Royals, it represents an opportunity to compete with plenty of young players for a spot on the 26-man roster. Richard Lovelady is one of those young players and as he enters his second season, he has every reason to be fighting hard.
Lovelady, a 10th-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, debuted in April of last year. In 25 games with the Royals, he struggled through 20 innings of work. Allowing 30 hits and 17 runs in those innings, it was clear that he was not ready for MLB action. His ERA at the end of year one sat at an alarmingly high 7.65.
Despite that, many clamored for Lovelady to get another shot in 2020. Although a right knee surgery took some of his offseason rehab time away, hopes remained high for the young pitcher as spring training approached. Battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster has proven to be one of the best opportunities Lovelady has had:
In five spring training appearances (4.1 innings) as a reliever, Lovelady has been terrific. He’s surrendered just two hits, struck out six batters and has yet to issue a walk. His command and overall confidence seem to be on the uptick. It’s an extremely small sample size but nevertheless, it’s about as promising a report as one can get.
In my season preview for Lovelady, I mentioned that he’s mastered pitching against minor league hitters. He needs a greater challenge. That challenge turned out to be a bit more than he could handle in 2019, but 2020 is a new year. He’s wiser and now has a better idea of what to expect.
Instead of suffering a sophomore slump out of the bullpen, Lovelady could be a candidate to turn some heads. Not only would making the roster from day one be a huge lift for him, but it could also pay dividends on the field. Adding a young, solid piece to the back of the ‘pen would surely help shore up a unit that was among the worst in baseball a year ago.
Lovelady is obviously not going to maintain a 0.00 ERA for much longer. He’s bound to have an off outing at some point. If he can continue having great ones, though, the KC Royals may have a new-and-improved version of him on their hands.
We’re a little over two weeks away from the first regular season game, so Lovelady’s elevator pitch as to why he belongs on the MLB roster will have to finish as strong as it’s started.