Phillies make Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr.'s MLB dreams come true

Phillies make Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr.'s MLB dreams come true

NEW YORK -- Dreams are coming true all over the place with this Phillies team.

First, it was rookies Andrew Knapp and Brock Stassi making the club in the final days of spring training.

And now, 2½ weeks into the season, Mark Leiter Jr. and Ben Lively have arrived from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Leiter, a 26-year-old right-hander, was called up on Tuesday afternoon and made it from Allentown to Citi Field in time for that night's game. His dad, Mark Sr., pitched for a decade in the majors and spent the 1997 and 1998 seasons with the Phillies. The Leiters are just the second father-son combo to play in the majors for the Phillies, joining the Amaros, Ruben Sr. and Jr.

"That's incredible," said the younger Leiter, who fondly remembers playing catch with his dad at Veterans Stadium. "I'm proud of that. That's something that I've dreamed about and me and my dad have talked about. That was the goal. I would love to have a career like he had. I would love that. I'm excited to be here and looking forward to everything that's coming."

Leiter and Stassi roomed together in Clearwater this spring. The two were both late-round draft picks -- Stassi a 33rd-rounder out of Nevada-Reno in 2011 and Leiter a 22nd-rounder out of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2013.

"Seeing everything Brock went through in spring, it felt like a lot of my story is similar," Leiter said. "I couldn't have been happier for him. I was lucky enough to share some of that with him being his roommate and having that night hanging out with him before the team left. To experience it for myself, it's amazing. It really was."

Leiter was not in big-league camp this spring. He was over on the minor-league side, though he did come over to the big-league side as an extra a few times. Leiter pitched at Double-A Reading last season and went 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 103 2/3 innings, some as a starter, some as a reliever. Phillies minor-league instructors have long liked his pitching savvy and toughness on the mound. He was promoted to Triple-A this season and allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings over two appearances. He walked two and struck out 11.

The Phillies summoned Leiter when they placed outfielder Howie Kendrick on the disabled list Tuesday. Leiter was on the field in Lehigh Valley going through the pregame stretch when manager Dusty Wathan called him into the dugout.

From afar, Lively watched the dugout meeting.

"We were in the outfield stretching and Dusty said, 'Leiter, come here,'" Lively said. "We saw Mark go in the dugout. We were thinking, 'Did he get sent down?' No one knew. Then we saw them hugging and smiling. It was pretty cool."

Leiter phoned his wife back at the apartment in Allentown and she ran an overnight bag over to the ballpark and within 40 minutes of getting the news of his dream-come-true promotion, he was in a car on the way to New York and ultimately was in uniform in the bullpen for the first pitch. The Leiters, of course, are New Jersey baseball legends from Tom's River. Al Leiter, the brother of Mark Sr., had a long and successful career with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets. A bunch of Mark Leiter Jr.'s pals from home made it to Tuesday night's game and shouted at him in the bullpen.

While Leiter was a late-round draft pick, Lively, 25, was a fourth-rounder by the Cincinnati Reds in 2013. The Phillies picked him up in a trade for Marlon Byrd on New Year's Eve 2014 and he won 18 games at Double A and Triple A last season and won the Paul Owens Award as the organization's top minor-league pitcher. Lively came up to replace reliever Pat Neshek, who went on paternity leave Wednesday (see story). Neshek is expected back by the weekend, so Lively's stay could be brief. The pitcher knows that.

"I'll get my feet wet," he said with a smile. "My name is right there -- call me whenever.

"Everyone is always saying you're just a phone call away, and the phone call came at midnight."

Lively was home relaxing after Tuesday night's Lehigh Valley game when Wathan called and told him he was joining Leiter in the big leagues.

Lively's dad, Ed, runs charter fishing boats in Pensacola, Florida. He's on the job by 5 a.m. every day so he gets to bed early. But his son did not hesitate to call his folks at midnight with the good news.

"My dad woke up and said, 'Something happen?' And I said, 'No, no. All good,'" Lively said. "I told him and he was pretty pumped. Then he woke up my mom and she started to cry. She lost it. My dad -- he was just fired up."

The Phillies sent a car to Allentown on Wednesday morning to shuttle Lively to Manhattan. He said he's not a big city guy, but there was no place he would rather have been Wednesday night than New York, in the big leagues, even if the assignment figures to be brief.

"Honestly, when it started setting in, I was in the car and I started seeing the city," he said. "I was like, 'All right, this is happening.' It was pretty cool."

Phillies call up pitching prospect Ben Lively; paternity leave for Pat Neshek

Phillies call up pitching prospect Ben Lively; paternity leave for Pat Neshek

Another Phillies pitching prospect is on his way to The Show.

Right-hander Ben Lively, who is 12-6 with a 3.15 ERA and 0.93 WHIP for Lehigh Valley since the start of 2016, was recalled from Triple-A. 

The Phillies have a roster opening for a few days with reliever Pat Neshek going on paternity leave. 

Lively, who was scheduled to start for the IronPigs on Thursday, will help out in the bullpen. 

The move comes a day after the Phillies selected the contract of RHP Mark Leiter Jr., who could serve as the long man. The Phillies also brought up Zach Eflin on Tuesday before his start at Citi Field, and gave Jake Thompson 10 starts last summer. Mark Appel and Nick Pivetta, also in the Triple-A rotation, could be up at some point this season as both are on the 40-man roster.

Lively, 25, was acquired by the Phillies from the Reds prior to 2015 for Marlon Byrd. He dominated last season at Double-A Reading, going 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA before making the jump to Triple-A, where he was also effective.

Lively is not a hard thrower but he is a strike thrower -- 66 percent of his pitches last season were strikes, and he's walked just 2.2 batters per nine innings since joining the Phillies' system.

It's the realization of a lifelong dream for another Phillies prospect.

Howie Kendrick placed on 10-day disabled list, Mark Leiter Jr. called up

Howie Kendrick placed on 10-day disabled list, Mark Leiter Jr. called up

Updated: 6:17 p.m.

NEW YORK -- Phillies left-fielder Howie Kendrick was placed on the 10-day disabled list before Tuesday night's game against the New York Mets.
 
The Phillies called up relief pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Kendrick's roster spot.
 
Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. Mark Jr. was a 22nd-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2013 out of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
 
Kendrick suffered a chest injury while throwing in the outfield in Washington on Saturday. He was able to get through that game -- and, in fact, made two nice catches -- but was too sore to play Sunday.
 
Though the injury was no worse on Tuesday, Kendrick was still on the shelf. In the new Basic Agreement, a stay on the disabled list is now 10 days, down from 15, so Kendrick could be back in a week as the DL assignment can be backdated three days.
 
Kendrick described the injury as something like a muscle pull just under his sternum. It is not an oblique injury, he said.
 
"It's sort of the upper ab, lower rib cage area," he said. "The good news is it's gotten no worse. But I feel it when I take swings off a tee in the cage."
 
Game action is a lot more intense than tee work, so Kendrick was out of Tuesday night's lineup even before his assignment to the DL was announced. He was replaced in left field by switch-hitting Daniel Nava.
 
Kendrick said an MRI was planned for the coming days.
 
Leiter, 25, was off to a good start at Triple A. He had allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings over two appearances. He walked two and struck out 11.
 
The Leiters are now the second father-son duo to play for the Phillies, joining the Amaros, Ruben Sr. and Jr.