Left-hander Richard Lovelady has pitched in 73 career games since debuting with the Kansas City Royals in 2019. He saw action in 27 games during the 2023 season, but all of those came with the Oakland Athletics after his tenure in the Atlanta Braves organization lasted just a couple of weeks.
Lovelady, a Hinesville, GA native and graduate from Kennesaw State, was drafted by the Royals in the 10th round of the 2016 draft. He pitched in 27 games as a rookie in 2019, with uninspiring results (162 ERA-) but better peripherals (93 FIP-, 104 xFIP-).
After pitching in only a single game during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Lovelady saw much better results in 20 appearances with the Royals in 2021. Across 20 1⁄3 innings, had a 77/90/76 line, striking out over a quarter of batters faced. Unfortunately, he underwent Tommy John Surgery prior to the end of the 2021 season, wiping out the majority of his 2022 campaign, in which he made only a handful of minor league appearances.
Atlanta picked up Lovelady from the Royals in a cash-based trade on March 30 and optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett. A few weeks later, the Braves tried to sneak him through waivers, but he was subsequently claimed by Oakland, where he spent the rest of the year.
What were the expectations?
Lovelady seemed like left-handed bullpen depth when acquired, essentially an up-and-down guy with options. His career line when the Braves claimed him was 121/100/93, with good numbers against lefties and horrid ones against righties.
Lovelady’s time with the Braves organization was a short one. After four minor league appearances spanning five innings of work, he was placed on waivers. Oakland claimed him and he saw action in 27 games for the Athletics.
For the Athletics, Lovelady was perhaps a bit worse than expected: 113/109/107. He continued to struggle against righties but didn’t have the quality numbers against lefties that buoyed him previously.
Unfortunately, his season ended in July after suffering a strain in his left forearm.
What went right?
Atlanta was not impacted by Lovelady’s time in the organization, but for the pitcher himself, he returned to the big leagues and found a steady gig in the Oakland bullpen. His pitches generally worked well without particularly good shape or command.
What went wrong?
The Braves took a flyer on Lovelady and didn’t see enough in his time in Gwinnett to hold on to him. It’s possible he could have seen time in Atlanta if he had been retained.
For Lovelady, though, his 2023 season had two issues. First, his lack of domination against lefties really tanked his line. But, more importantly, the injury bug struck again, providing another set-back for the 28-year-old. He was outrighted by Oakland to their Triple-A affiliate after the end of the regular season. Given that forearm issues can be tough for a pitcher, and Lovelady already has one Tommy John Surgery in his rearview mirror, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be full steam ahead for 2024.
For Lovelady, his health is likely to play the biggest role in his 2024 season. If healthy, he has can probably grab some MLB relief time — especially in Oakland, a team with little to lose in the near term by seeing if he can become a useful full-time bullpen piece. If able, he will have to pitch his way back to Oakland in Spring Training -- a feat that seems more than plausible given the current state of that franchise.