Phillies

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

uspresswire-phillies-ben-lively.jpg
USA Today Images

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

BOX SCORE

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.

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies officials started daydreaming about the possibility of putting Manny Machado in red pinstripes a couple of years ago. They tried to trade for him in July. They hosted him as a free agent at Citizens Bank Park in December, wined and dined him in Center City and subsequently made him multiple contract offers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Phils' long pursuit of the Gold Glove infielder ended.

General manager Matt Klentak got a phone call from Machado's agent, Dan Lozano. Machado was ready to move on a contract offer from the San Diego Padres, later reported to be worth $300 million over 10 years.

Did the Phillies want to stay in the game?

"There's a certain value that we believe a player brings and we were willing to be aggressive," Klentak said in a meeting with reporters later in the day. "If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.

"We've made no secret. We're really happy for Manny. We like the player. I think San Diego will be a very good fit for him. We made our bid, put our best foot forward and he ended up signing with the Padres.

"Over the course of four months, we had ongoing dialogue. We were certainly engaged with Danny throughout and Manny would have been a good fit, but again, you have to draw the line somewhere. The Padres are getting a great player."

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' best offer was. He shook his head "no" when asked if he would have done anything differently during the negotiations.

According to sources, Machado had been coveted by the Phillies' baseball operations and analytics staffs. Both believed that in this free-agent market, he offered the best possible roster upgrade because he is an elite defender at third base in addition to being a top offensive talent.

But news of Machado's decision was not met with disappointment in all circles of the Phillies organization and it certainly was not met with disappointment by the fans.

The folks in the box office have favored this winter's other big free agent, Bryce Harper, over Machado, whose controversial comments in October about not hustling created concerns about how he'd be received by hard-nosed Philadelphia sports fans.

Harper remains the overwhelming free-agent choice of the fans, and Machado's decision to play in San Diego, coupled with the Phillies' desire to make a big free-agent score in this winter of stupid money, puts enormous public pressure on the club to land the 26-year-old outfielder.

Klentak was asked if he'd spoken with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, in the wake of the Machado news.

"I'm not going to answer that," he said.

It is difficult to imagine the opportunistic Boras not having reached out to the Phillies after Machado's signing. Phillies officials met with Boras and Harper in Las Vegas in January and the two sides remain in contact. In fact, there has been an uptick in conversation between the two sides recently.

All along, observers of this free-agent drama have believed that Machado would sign before Harper. Now that Machado has set the bar, Harper will try to jump over it. There is some industry thought that he is seeking $326 million, which would put him above the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton got in a contract extension with the Miami Marlins.

The White Sox, Giants and Nationals, along with the Phillies, have had interest in Harper. But can any other team play in the neighborhood of $300 million? The White Sox said they weren't willing to go that high for Machado. The Giants' interest seems tied to a short-term deal. The Nats reportedly offered $300 million to retain Harper in October, but there are questions about whether the offer still exists after a busy winter of transactions in Washington.

The Phillies are very leery about bidding against themselves. That caution might have hurt them in their bid to sign Machado. It could hurt them in their quest to land Harper. By the same token, they could be rewarded if they remain patient on Harper because it is very difficult to identify which teams are really in on him. This might be a field of just one.

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' valuation of Harper is. He would not discuss what the "walk-away" point would be on Harper, though there clearly would be one.

The Phillies have largely had a productive offseason. They got better with Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. But from Day 1, this offseason was about landing one of the big ones and there's only one of them left. Gulp.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

Updated: 2:15 p.m. 

With Manny Machado off the board, so too are the Padres in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

Are the Phillies just bidding against themselves at this point?

Let's take a look at the rest of the market:

White Sox

The White Sox richest reported offer to either player this offseason was in the range of $200 million. Aside from not being able to offer the most money, the White Sox offer even less of a chance to win now than the Padres. Harper is uber-competitive, so you would think this matters.

White Sox executive VP Ken Williams said this:

Telling.

Here's what White Sox GM Rick Hahn had to say:

These do not sound like the comments of a team that thinks it has a chance to land Harper.

Nationals

You learn in this business to never say never, especially when it comes to high-priced negotiations that can change at a moment's notice. 

The Nationals, by word and deed, appear to have moved on from Harper. They have a good outfield even without him — Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, top prospect Victor Robles — and also must worry about paying underrated star Anthony Rendon when his contract expires after 2019. 

Rumblings about Harper's work ethic also leaked out of the Nationals' spring training clubhouse earlier this week. 

Washington's payroll is nearing $200 million and is precariously close to exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Nats do, however, have about $60 million coming off the books after 2019.

That said, the Phillies should be able to top Washington's offer, especially since all of the Nats' highest-priced players have deferrals in their contract. The Phils should be able to close a deal without deferring any of the money. Deferral vs. non-deferral should be an easy decision for any player.

If money means the most to Harper, the Phillies have the clear advantage. If it's a combination of money and comfort, you can't just outright eliminate the Nats.

Giants

The Giants have reportedly only been interested in giving Harper a shorter-term deal. At this point, especially after Machado got a 10-year contract from the Padres, it would be extremely surprising if Harper went that route. It might look like a loss, which Scott Boras is rarely willing to take.

The Giants were a team to worry about because of the affinity Harper and his wife Kayla have for the Bay Area and because of his friendship with guys like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. 

But again, the Giants just aren't a win-now team. They won 73 games last season and their top players are aging out of their primes. Posey is no longer the elite offensive option he once was. Madison Bumgarner, a free-agent at season's end, is no longer the unquestioned ace he once was. 

San Francisco is also a tough place to hit. Harper's numbers there would probably be worse than they were at Nationals Park (which plays mostly neutral but hitter-friendly when it's warm) and at Citizens Bank Park.

The pressure is on the Phillies' front office to get this done. The biggest roadblocks at this point would be an 11th-hour mystery team emerging, or a genuine hesitance from Harper to play in Philadelphia. There's no real indication he doesn't want to be in Philly other than this tweet, which could also be a mere ploy by Boras to get the Phillies to boost their offer one final time.



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies