PHILADELPHIA -- Sixty-five games into the season, the Phillies have shuffled through eight starting pitchers who combined to post the third-highest ERA of any rotation in baseball.
But the most recent addition, Ben Lively, who had the second-best ERA in the International League with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before his callup, has shown promise in his first three career starts, providing the Phillies with much-needed length.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin thinks that for a young rotation -- only Jeremy Hellickson is older than 26 -- Lively's success could both inspire and challenge. Maybe it already has. Another youngster and Lively's former Minor League teammate, Nick Pivetta, turned in the Phillies' best start of 2017 on Thursday night and paved the way for their first shutout of the season. He even bested Chris Sale in the process.
"If I were a pitcher on this team and I saw Lively pitch, it's made an impression on me, and it should to the other pitchers to attack the strike zone and not try to do too much," Mackanin said.
Phillies starters have nibbled around the edges of the strike zone too much this season, falling behind and making mistakes late in the count when they need a strike and don't have the wiggle room to work around the corners.
Lively, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Phillies' No. 24 prospect, has committed himself to throwing strikes even if he's behind in the count or the game. Mackanin mentioned Lively's third start when, after going seven innings in each of his first two MLB outings, he allowed Boston to score a run in each of their first three trips to the plate.
"Let your stuff get people out and throw strikes," Mackanin said. "That's what I see in Lively. He has that approach, has good poise on the mound, at least up until now, he has not backed off from throwing strikes and pitching away from contact.
"If I were a pitcher, I'd take note."
Velasquez working his way back
In rehabbing the Grade 1 strain of his flexor pronator in his pitching elbow, right-hander Vince Velasquez threw from 90 feet Friday and will graduate to a 120-foot long-toss session Sunday before throwing a bullpen next Thursday.
"He's progressing slowly," Mackanin said, although not slower than the team intends.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.