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