Phillies prospects Ben Lively, Nick Williams gain experience in loss to Mets

Phillies prospects Ben Lively, Nick Williams gain experience in loss to Mets


NEW YORK -- You want prospects, you got prospects.

The Phillies actually had a couple of them on the field for Friday night's 2-1 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).

Nick Williams, of course, came up earlier in the day, replacing the injured Howie Kendrick, and the left-handed hitting outfielder stroked a single (he also struck out and lined out to center field) in three at-bats against a pretty good pitcher in Jacob deGrom in his big-league debut.

But Williams, 23, wasn't the only prospect on the field for the Phillies in this one.

Remember, Ben Lively was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2015, and the 25-year-old right-hander, promoted to the majors a month ago, is now taking a regular turn in the team's rotation.

Six starts into his big-league career, Lively has been pretty good. He only has one win to show for his work, but his ERA is a respectable 3.72, and five of his starts have fit the description of quality — six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs.

Lively delivered another Q-start in this game. He held the Mets to two runs over 6 1/3 innings, good enough to win on a lot of nights, but not on a night when your team supports you with just four hits, one of which was a routine fly ball that fell in because centerfielder Curtis Granderson lost it in the twilight.

Just not enough offense. It has been a familiar refrain for these Phillies, who have the worst record in the majors at 26-52.

"Tough to lose that game," manager Pete Mackanin lamented afterward. "Not one of our first five hitters got a hit and we struck out a little too much."

Phillies hitters struck out 13 times. Twelve of those K's came against deGrom, who gave up just one run and has allowed just three earned runs over 32 innings in his last four starts.

"I can see why he's 7-3, that’s for sure," Williams said. "He's got good stuff."

deGrom is now 8-3.

Lively is just 1-3 in his six starts. With just a little more run support, he might have won this one, however.

In the end, the game turned out to be a good learning experience for Lively — as in, the walks will kill you. Lively issued four of them in the first two innings. He largely skirted damage with the help of a pair of double plays, but a two-out walk in the second extended the inning and preceded an RBI hit by Granderson. That was the Mets' first run. The second scored in the fourth when Jose Reyes tripled and Travis d'Arnaud singled. Centerfielder Odubel Herrera had a shot to catch Reyes' drive at the wall but couldn’t make a difficult play.

"It was a tough play," Mackanin said. "That wall comes into play. He had a chance. I've seen him make great catches like that before. But I can't fault him for that. It was close. It was a big play."

The lack of run support really made that two-out walk in the second a killer for Lively.

"I wish I could tell you why," Lively said when asked about the four walks in the first two innings. "I felt like I was delivering the ball fine and it just kept getting away from me. Then [after the second inning] it kind of clicked. I'm glad I figured it out. It could have been worse."

Mackanin praised Lively for his ability to improve mid-start and keep his team in the game. Lively doesn't have power stuff, but he's got a bulldog mentality and lots of deception in his delivery. Mackanin likes that. It will be interesting to see how Lively fares in the second half of the season, if he can pitch his way into a rotation spot for 2018.

Williams struck out in his first at-bat, caught looking at a 2-2 fastball from deGrom on the outside corner.

"He froze me on that first bat at-bat, fastball away. It was paint there, you know," Williams said.

Williams lined out to center on a 2-2 fastball in the fifth and singled to center on a first-pitch sinker in the seventh, both against deGrom.

"I liked my second at-bat better because I laid off some tough pitches," he said.

Williams handled the anxiety of his first big-league start well.

"I think I was more nervous on defense than offense," he said. "At the plate, I felt pretty comfortable. In the field, I was just looking around and thinking, 'Jeez, this place feels huge.'"

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

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Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will be without Mark Leiter Jr.'s versatile arm for about six weeks. An MRI performed Monday on the pitcher's sore right forearm showed a strained flexor muscle.

Leiter had a good chance to make the opening day roster as a long reliever or fifth starter. With him out, the Phillies could be in need of a swingman.

Could Ben Lively be that guy?

"I can pitch anywhere," the competitive 26-year-old right-hander said. "I don't care. Wherever they want, I'll pitch."

Lively did nothing to hurt his chances of making the club as he turned in five shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-shortened 2-0 win Tuesday afternoon. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out four. He was particularly impressive in the fourth inning, striking out Justin Smoak and retiring Russell Martin on a tapper back to the mound with runners on second and third.

"I just tried to bear down and stick to the game plan," Lively said. "There's too much technology around here now. We have all the heat maps and we talked about it before the game and I just stayed with it."

Lively made 15 starts with the big club last year and 10 of them were quality starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Lively doesn't have power stuff. He gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings last season and struck out just 5.3 per nine. Management would love to see some improvement in those areas — i.e., more of what he displayed on Tuesday.

"Lively was strong today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He came out and attacked the zone.

"One of the things that is important is that we see some swing and misses with Lives and we saw a couple of bat-missing moments today that were, to me, a big deal. He induces quick contact, which is important, but we also like to see the ability to miss bats and we saw that on a couple of occasions, (Curtis) Granderson being most notable."

Granderson struck out twice against Lively.

"We look at past tendencies from recent years," Lively said of his pregame study. "The main one we looked at today was Granderson. He has a low slugging percentage on the outer half (of the plate), so we pounded him on the outer half the whole time."

With Jerad Eickhoff headed to the disabled list and Nick Pivetta likely to join Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, Lively appears to be vying for the fifth starter's job with Zach Eflin and non-roster invite Drew Hutchison. But he and Hutchison also could be vying for a long man's job in the bullpen.

By mid-April, the Phillies will probably have an eight-man bullpen. But they could break with an extra reliever because they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

However it shakes out, Lively did not hurt his chances of landing some role with his performance Tuesday.

Roster moves
The Phillies sent catcher Logan Moore, infielder Mitch Walding and outfielder Andrew Pullin to minor-league camp.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

Photo: NBCSP

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.