Thursday was not a good day for Ben Lively. The Phillies starter was hit for seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings of work against the Diamondbacks and informed manager Gabe Kapler about lower back pain that he was experiencing in the third inning, just prior to being lifted from the game. The following day he was placed on the 10-day DL with a lower back strain.
It’s unclear if the back pain has been an issue throughout the season, but Lively came into Thursday’s game with a 4.64 ERA and that was after a strong six-inning start against Pittsburgh in which he allowed just one earned run. Following the thumping by the D’backs, his ERA has blistered up to 6.85 through five starts this season.
The injury leaves the Phillies with a decision to make regarding their rotation. While Jake Thompson was recalled from Lehigh Valley, he wouldn’t appear to be a major candidate for the job even though he has made three starts at Triple-A prior to being recalled. Out of the Phillies bullpen, Thompson had a 7.20 ERA in two relief appearances, the last of which was in the Phillies 20-1 blowout win over Miami. Thompson threw three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and no walks. In his three starts with Lehigh Valley, he is 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA and was pounded for 10 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his last start on Sunday.
Thompson could take over as the Phillies longman out of the bullpen and Drew Hutchison could move into the rotation. Hutchison came on in relief of Lively on Thursday and threw 3 2/3 innings and allowed just one earned run. He’s pitched pretty well out of the Phillies bullpen after a tough outing against the Mets back on April 4th. Since that time, he’s allowed just two earned runs in 8 1/3 innings (2.16 ERA). He’s also compiled nine strikeouts in his last 6 1/3 innings of work. Overall, his season ERA stands at 3.27.
Another option would be Zach Eflin (2-2, 4.05 at Lehigh Valley), who is next on the Phillies depth chart for a starting spot in the majors. Eflin was also hit hard in his last outing, allowing six earned runs in four innings against Norfolk on Monday.
With an off-day on Thursday, the Phillies could conceivably only need one start from Thompson, Hutchison or Eflin to get them through, if Lively returns from the DL as quickly as it is anticipated that he will.
On Friday, the Phillies also promoted reliever Seranthony Dominguez to Lehigh Valley and returned Austin Davis to the IronPigs after he was moved back to Double-A Reading earlier. Reliever Tyler Viza (1-1, 5.40 at Lehigh Valley) was sent to Reading and catcher Logan Moore was placed on the DL with a shin contusion.