PHILADELPHIA—The first thing people noticed about Jesse Biddle this spring was his physique. He was leaner and more athletic looking, thanks to a conditioning program that resulted in the 6-foot-5 lefty dropping 20 pounds to get down near 215.
"He did it on his own," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He looks good. He's serious about taking care of business."
A first-round pick by his hometown Phillies in 2010, Biddle said he was pleased this spring with the results of his offseason work.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel a lot more athletic on the mound. I think it will help me go deeper into games."
Phillies officials were pleased with Biddle's progress. Just a year out of high school, Biddle more than held his own as a 19-year-old at low Class A Lakewood last season, going 0-3, 7.16 in April and then bouncing back to go 7-5, 2.39 in his remaining 21 games, 20 of which were starts.
He finished fourth in the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.98) and fifth in strikeouts (124 in 133 innings).
"He was a kid just out of high school who wasn't sure he belonged," said Steve Schrenk, Lakewood's pitching coach in 2011. "Once he figured it out, it was over."
"He showed a lot mental toughness fighting through a tough start," Looper said.
Reflecting on his first full pro season, Biddle said, "I learned a lot. I grew up a lot. It was long, but a lot of fun."
He added that one of the best things he learned was to focus on getting outs, not necessarily strikeouts. Club officials were pleased with the development of Biddle's changeup, which complements his fastball and curveball.
Biddle moves to high Class A Clearwater in 2012, where he will strive to improve his pickoff move and fielding efficiency.
• Righthander David Buchanan, a seventh-rounder out of Georgia State in 2010, won his Double-A debut, holding Portland to two hits over seven shutout innings on April 7. He jumped to Reading after just six starts in for Clearwater in 2011.
• Seeking middle-infield depth, the Phillies signed veteran Andres Blanco and assigned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.