After great MLB debut, Diekman back in triple-A to work on his command

Jake Diekman struck out 29 in 211/3 innings with the Phils, but he also walked 15.
Jake Diekman struck out 29 in 211/3 innings with the Phils, but he also walked 15. (MARC NARDUCCI)
Posted: August 05, 2012

ALLENTOWN - Jake Diekman will never forget his major-league debut with the Phillies, but the lefthanded reliever doesn't want to dwell on it, either.

Diekman is back pitching for Lehigh Valley, having been sent down by the Phillies after they made their two trades with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

On May 15 Diekman pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

He relieved Chad Qualls with runners on second and third and the score tied, 3-3, in the ninth. Diekman had an inning-ending strikeout, then struck out two more in the 10th inning to earn the win.

It is a lifelong memory that for now he has placed in the background.

"I don't try to think of that at all," Diekman said. "It happened and was great, but you have to move on."

Diekman certainly enjoyed his moments in Philadelphia, but his trip back to the minors was paved by some inconsistent outings.

In 23 games covering 211/3 innings, Diekman was 1-1 with a 4.44 ERA. He struck out 29 but walked 15.

"I need to get more consistent," said Diekman, who threw a scoreless inning in Lehigh Valley's 3-2 win in 10 innings over the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday at Coca-Cola Park. "I was told I need more seasoning."

As disappointed as he was to return to the minors, Diekman couldn't argue with the decision.

"I totally agree with them," he said. "I wasn't getting it done there."

Diekman has a fastball that can get into the high 90s, but commanding it is the key.

A 30th-round selection in the 2007 draft, Diekman has steadily worked his way up the Phillies system.

Now he is back in the minors to work on his command. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Diekman threw 59 percent of his pitches for strikes; the major-league average is 63 percent.

"There were times I pitched really well and times I was god-awful," he said. "I need that, to get strike one and after that put away the hitter and get him out, because you aren't going to stay up there when you walk people and don't throw strikes."

Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg said he was impressed with Diekman's ability.

"He has the stuff and everything to be a major-league reliever," Sandberg said. "He comes now to fine-tune it and get to where he wants to be and see where that is."

The Phillies insist that they haven't lost confidence in Diekman, but they also realize that the major-league setting isn't the place to work on issues such as command.

"He is still very big in our plans going forward," said Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan. "We feel he needs to get more consistent work and can do that in the minor leagues, but he is going to be a good one."

While there is always pressure to retire batters, regardless of the level, Diekman agrees that it's easier to make adjustments at triple A.

"Now I can refocus and try to get my confidence back, and try to clear everything and work on stuff out on the mound," Diekman said. "Up there you don't want to make a mistake, and you already have to have [confidence], otherwise they are like sharks to blood and will just eat you up."

Diekman isn't beating himself up in a figurative sense. He understands that he had some successful moments with the Phillies, and that fuels his desire to return.

"The most positive thing is that I know I can pitch up there," he said. "I feel I can be a really good major-league pitcher, and now I have to work on things so I can be."


5

1 On Monday Lakewood righthander Colin Kleven threw eight shutout innings in an 8-0 win over Delmarva. The last Lakewood pitcher to throw a nine-inning shutout was Lisalverto Bonilla on July 6, 2011. It was the first time in his career the 21-year-old Kleven reached eight innings in 42 career starts. A 33d-round draft choice in 2009, Kleven was a South Atlantic League all-star this season. On Thursday, Lakewood lefthander Hoby Milner, a seventh-round draft choice this year out of the University of Texas, pitched seven shutout innings in a 10-0 win over Delmarva. It was the second straight game Milner was part of a shutout win. He pitched 51/3 innings in Lakewood's 2-0 victory over West Virginia on July 28. He is 3-2 with a 3.41 ERA.

2 Mark Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and led all pitchers with a 7.2 WAR in 2003 with the Chicago Cubs but has suffered multiple arm injuries since. He's still attempting a comeback. On Wednesday he pitched two scoreless innings for the Pawtucket Red Sox during their 3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley in 10 innings. Prior's fastball reached 92 m.p.h. although he is far from the overpowering pitcher he once was.

3 Reading first baseman Darin Ruf has always hit for average, but now he is gaining some power. A 26-year-old 20th-round pick in 2009 out of Creighton, Ruf had never hit more than five home runs before swatting 17 last season for Clearwater. He entered the weekend with 18 home runs this season. Ruf also took a .300 career batting average into the weekend.

4 Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' first-round pick in 2010 out of Germantown Friends, is 7-4 with a 3.23 ERA for high-A Clearwater, but more important is that he is getting used to extended work. Last season he pitched 133 innings for Lakewood. This year he has thrown 1111/3 innings. Biddle, who turns 21 in October, is The Inquirer's No. 2-ranked Phillies prospect. With the regular season ending Sept. 2, he is likely to exceed last year's innings total. Biddle threw seven shutout innings in Wednesday's 7-3 win over St. Lucie. He struck out nine and walked three.

5 The popularity of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs was evident again Thursday when the team welcomed its three millionth fan. Tara Pagotto of Moscow, Pa., was selected from Thursday's sellout crowd of 9,672 at Coca-Cola Park. Since the franchise's inception in 2008, the IronPigs have drawn 3,007,239 fans, an average of 9,004 per game. Incidentally, it was Pagotto's first time to the park. She will receive a number of prizes, including 2013 season tickets. This season, through 53 dates, the IronPigs are leading minor-league baseball in average attendance (9,084) for a third consecutive year.

- Marc Narducci


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com or on Twitter @sjnard.

 

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