Kansas City Royals

Yankee Stadium jitters rattled Royals rookie Richard Lovelady momentarily

Royals left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady hadn’t thrown a pitch in the majors before April 9. When he found himself on the mound on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, he had to work through some jitters, and a few deep breaths were needed to calm the 23-year-old’s nerves.

“The first batter, got him out. The next couple batters — it seemed like I got a little overwhelmed here,” Lovelady said. “You know, the whole atmosphere of being in Yankee Stadium kinda got a little too much blood pumping. It just took me to step off the mound a reset, just take a breather and get back out there and hit the zone.”

Lovelady went 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He walked one batter with one out in the seventh, but an inning-ending double play kept that from serving as the start of anything significant for the Yankees.

The double play came right after Royals catcher Martin Maldonado and second baseman Whit Merrifield made a visit to the mound to calm Lovelady down.

“It was just, ‘Hey take a deep breath. You’ve already pitched in the big leagues already. Right? This is second nature. Just go out there and keep pitching,’” Lovelady said of the message delivered by the two.

Lovelady didn’t allow a hit and struck out Gio Urshela and got Brett Gardner to ground out in the eighth inning before the Royals’ Ian Kennedy came in to face Yankees star Aaron Judge.

Lefty-proof lineup: The Royals shuffled their starting lineup on Friday night as a result of the Yankees starting veteran left-hander CC Sabathia. Sabathia is a six-time all-star and the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2007. He also pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers and then Indians manager Ned Yost, currently the Royals manager, after being traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee in 2008.

“He’s made adjustments,” Yost said of Sabathia. “When I had him, he was 95 to 97. Now, he’s 88 to 90, but has excellent command, changes speeds.”

First baseman Ryan O’Hearn gets the day off with Sabathia pitching, and Alex Gordon has moved down to the fifth spot in the lineup.

Visions of 12-man pitching staff: Scott Barlow’s ability to pitch multiple innings along with Kennedy’s ability to do that has Yost thinking about the potential of having a 12-man pitching staff and being able to add a 13th position player to the roster at some point.

“If you can get a couple of two-inning guys on your pitching staff, then you can feel comfortable about a 12-man pitching staff,” Yost said. “If you don’t, then you pretty much you’ve got to have a 13-man pitching staff. We’re trying the best we can to get that settled down a little bit and keep a 12-man staff and get the extra player.”

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and supports our award-winning coverage.

Friday’s lineup:

1. Whit Merrifield, 1b

2. Billy Hamilton, cf

3. Adalberto Mondesi, ss

4. Hunter Dozier, 3b

5. Alex Gordon, lf

6. Jorge Soler, dh

7. Chris Owings, 2b

8. Martin Maldonado, c

9. Terrance Gore, rf

Starting pitcher: Jakob Junis (rh, 1-1, 6.14)

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.