After an excellent 2016 campaign and a hot start in 2017, right-handed starter Ben Lively deserves his shot in the lackluster Phillies rotation.
It’s no secret that the Phillies have had one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball so far this season. With Zach Eflin headed back to the minor leagues after another disappointing start, it’s time for the Phillies to reward one of the most consistent pitchers in the organization over the last year, Ben Lively.
The Phillies acquired Lively prior to the 2015 season in an offseason trade with the Cincinnati Reds in which the Phils sent veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd to Cincy.
Lively got off to a slow start in the Phillies organization and spent the entire 2015 season with Double-A Reading, finishing with an 8-7 record and a 4.34 ERA. Despite being 24 years old, Lively still entered the 2016 campaign back in Double-A, and didn’t appear as if he would be able to break through what was a Phillies system loaded with pitching prospects at that time.
The Pensacola, Florida native quickly changed that as he went 7-0 with 1.87 ERA in his first nine starts in Double-A. That performance earned him a call-up to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he continued to pitch well, finishing his first season in Triple-A with an 11-5 record and a 3.06 ERA.
Lively’s overall performance earned him high honors within the Phillies’ system, as he was announced as one of the winners of the Paul Owens Award, which is given to the top minor league pitcher and position player in the Phillies’ organization each season.
Many thought Lively had an outside shot at earning a spot in the team’s rotation to start the 2017 season.
But when the Phillies acquired right-hander Clay Buchholz in the offseason, Lively returned to Triple-A. Lively headlined a loaded rotation in Lehigh Valley that featured prospects Mark Appel, Nick Pivetta, Jake Thompson, and Ricardo Pinto.
Despite early-season injuries to Buchholz and Aaron Nola and being called up as an extra arm in the bullpen, Lively didn’t crack the big-league rotation.
So far this season, Lively continues to dominate opposing hitters at Triple-A. Through his first nine starts this season, Lively is 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA.
With a Phillies rotation that his been among the worst in baseball this season, it’s time for the 25-year-old Lively to get his shot with the big league club.
The team optioned Eflin to Triple-A after another disappointing start yesterday afternoon, leaving a spot in the rotation up ford grabs.
That spot doesn’t need to be filled for a week, however, as the team has a day off on Thursday, which allows them to delay calling up a starter.
But when the time comes next week for a fifth stater, Lively should be the player the Phillies bring up.
The Phillies could opt for Pivetta, who made four starts with the Phils already this season, but struggled to get settled in.
Pivetta made his return to the IronPigs on Sunday night, and had another solid start, picking up his fifth victory of the season, allowing just two runs in six innings of work.
Despite his effectiveness in Triple-A, Pivetta still needs to work on his location and his secondary pitches before he can return to the big league club.
Lively doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors, however.
Despite not overpowering hitters with a good fastball, Lively is able to use pinpoint location to get hitters into two-strike counts, where he can get them to swing and miss or make weak contact.
The 2017 season has not gone as planned for the Phillies rotation, and it’s time to see if some of the minor league pitchers can become a mainstay in the rotation.
Lively should be the next in line to get his crack at the big leagues.