Phillies' Biddle Settles In With Lakewood

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Jesse Biddle may not have been getting the acclaim of some of his fellow Phillies pitching prospects or some of his peers in the South Atlantic League, but for the last three months, few have pitched better than the 19-year-old lefthander.

The 27th overall pick in last year's draft, Biddle's first full season pitching for low Class A Lakewood didn't start out too smoothly. He was touched up for five runs on eight hits in five innings in his second start of the year. Over his next two outings, Biddle issued nine walks in 6 2/3 innings, giving up eight hits and seven earned runs to go with them. After four starts, he was 0-3, 7.16.

"I think early on, he was trying to feel for his way around the mound a little bit," Lakewood manager Chris Truby said. "The last couple of months, he's been really aggressive and going after guys and really letting the ball go a little bit better."

Biddle's turnaround began when he allowed one run on four his in five innings on May 2 against Savannah. Two weeks later, he tossed six scoreless innings and struck out eight against Delmarva, and the snowball has just gotten bigger from there. Biddle hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 12 starts since then. He owns a 2.46 ERA in 91 innings since May 1, the fourth-best mark in the SAL over that stretch.

Everything starts with the fastball for Biddle, a plus offering from the left side sitting in the low 90s and touching 94 mph. Add in some tailing action and the downhill angle he generates from his 6-foot-4 frame, and tt's a weapon most low Class A hitters won't be able to handle. For the season, Biddle ranks third in the SAL with 106 strikeouts in 108 innings.

As good as his fastball is, it doesn't mean much if you can't command it, and that's the main difference between the April version of Biddle and the pitcher the BlueClaws have been seeing lately.

"Once he got to the point where (his fastball command) is more consistent, where he is now," Truby said, "it opens up the door for his curveball and his changeup, which have gotten better."

Biddle has utilized both a slider and curveball previously, but he's stuck with the curveball with Lakewood. The curve has been Biddle's knockout pitch, an 11-to-5 breaker that's gotten more consistent as the season's progressed. Meanwhile, his changeup has some slight sinking action and has been a big part of his success against success righthanded hitters, who he's held to a .218 average, even better than the .233 average lefty hitters have put up against him.

"When he commands his fastball, he's got that breaking ball that he gets guys to chase, he gets it for called strikes," Truby said. "It's a tough pitch, a swing-and-miss pitch."

Biddle gave up eight hits in six innings against Augusta on Tuesday, matching the highest hit total an opponent has had against him all year, though he still limited the GreenJackets to three runs in six innings. Biddle took a no decision, a familiar refrain for him as Lakewood's sputtering offense is the main culprit behind his modest 5-6 record to go with his overall 3.18 ERA. He has just two wins in his last eight starts despite not surrendering more than three runs in any of them, though he also hasn't been saddled with a loss since June 9.

"He comes to the ballpark every day and he wants to get better," Truby said, "and he's ready to work, whether it be his running, his bullpen sessions, in between starts when he's listening to game situations. He's a worker.

"Going through the first full season is tough for any kid, especially being a first-round pick with some expectations—in his own mind, too—but he's come out every day and worked and gotten better from day one."