David Buchanan made only six starts at single-A Clearwater last season after being promoted from Lakewood on Aug. 1.

His performance with the Threshers and during spring training last month convinced the Phillies' player development department that the 22-year-old righthander was ready to pitch at double-A Reading.

"We wanted to push him and we felt he had the pitches to be able to handle that level," said Benny Looper, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player personnel. "He's a sinker-ball guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the strike zone, so we thought Reading was the right spot for him."

So far, Buchanan has made that decision look like a smart one. Through three starts, he was 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA. He had allowed just 15 hits, struck out 15 batters, and walked two batters in 19 innings.

A year ago, when he was at Lakewood, former BlueClaws pitching coach Steve Schrenk compared Buchanan to Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick.

"That's a very good comparison," Looper said.

The future at third

The Phillies know they need to develop a third baseman, something they have not done since the departure of Scott Rolen, and it appears as if Maikel Franco could be the next starter at the position from their farm system.

"He's good," Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini said. "He's continually getting better. He has power potential. Right now, he's not a power hitter, but he hits the ball hard. He hits the ball as hard as any 19-year-old I've seen."

Franco, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, hit just .123 in 17 games at Lakewood after being promoted from Williamsport last season. But he has adjusted nicely to the higher level this season and had two homers and six extra-base hits in his first 15 games. He does not turn 20 until Aug. 26.

First-round updates

Anthony Hewitt, the Phillies' first-round pick and the 24th overall selection in the 2008 draft, opened the season on the disabled list with a wrist injury, but has since joined single-A Clearwater. Hewitt, who has yet to approach the high ceiling the Phillies hoped for when they selected him, started 1 for 16 with the Threshers.

Jesse Biddle, the Philadelphia native taken in the first round of the 2010 draft, struggled for much of spring training and is 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA after three starts for single-A Clearwater.

On the rise

Lefthander Ethan Stewart, a 47th-round pick in 2010, is opening eyes at Lakewood. Through three starts, the 6-foot-6 lefty from British Columbia has a 1.10 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 161/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .172 against him.

Extra bases

Scott Elarton continues to be a good story at triple-A Lehigh Valley, posting a 0.56 ERA in his first three starts. . . . Kelly Dugan, a second-round selection and the Phillies' first overall pick in 2009, is now playing first base at Lakewood after mostly playing outfield with Williamsport last season. . . . Clearwater pitcher Lisalberto Bonilla has changed his name to Lisalverto. We were hoping for Giancarlo or Bobby.

Contact Inquirer staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or on Twitter @brookob.