Walding adjusting to life in the Phillies system

Posted: August 20, 2012

Williamsport third baseman Mitch Walding is one of the few players in the Phillies organization who has been asked to slightly cut back the intensity.

Walding, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011, brings a football mentality to the diamond, which is natural since he was a high school quarterback at St. Mary's High in Stockton, Calif.

Yet in a way, Walding, ranked the Phillies' No. 16 prospect by The Inquirer, has been his own biggest and at times, worst, critic.

"He wants to be 6 for 5 every night," Williamsport manager Andy Tracy said, well aware that he exaggerated the math to make a point. "We have to have him take his foot off the gas pedal a little bit and realize sometimes positive at-bats, the results don't have to be a hit."

Slowly, Walding said the message is beginning to seep in.

"This year my main focus is to accept there will be failure and try not to get too down on myself like I have in the past," said Walding, who turns 20 on Sept. 10.

Competing for Williamsport in the short-season single-A New York-Penn League, Walding entered the weekend hitting .239 with one home run and 25 RBIs in 188 at-bats.

Tracy said most young players will struggle, especially going from extended spring training to their first minor-league team. In addition, Walding is adjusting to third base after being a shortstop in high school.

"He's very much improved at third," Tracy said. "He is very solid, and the kid is a gamer."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Walding wasn't going to play football his senior year in order to concentrate on baseball. Then his friends kept bugging him to come out for the football team, one that needed a quarterback.

Walding fared well and even earned a football scholarship offer from Fresno State. As a senior he threw for 2,725 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading his team to an 11-2 record. He eventually accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Oregon, but those plans obviously changed when he signed with the Phillies.

Walding said playing football as a senior was one of the best decisions he made.

"Playing quarterback is one of the coolest things and also the hardest," he said.

Sort of like learning to hit on the professional level.

Biddle understands

Clearwater lefthander Jesse Biddle wanted to keep pitching, but he understood being pulled. On Friday Biddle pitched seven no-hit innings in an 11-0 win over Brevard County.

He was pulled after striking out 12 and throwing 98 pitches for the high single-A Threshers. Biddle faced 24 batters and surrendered two walks. In addition, one batter reached base on a fifth-inning throwing error by Edgar Duran.

Kenneth Giles allowed one hit in two shutout relief innings.

Biddle was the Phillies' first-round draft choice in 2010 (27th overall) out of Germantown Friends and is The Inquirer's No. 2-ranked prospect.

"At first when they took me out I wasn't really happy about it, but we talked about it, and they were only looking out for me," Biddle said by phone on Saturday.

He said the last no-hitter he threw was as a senior at Germantown Friends.

What worked against Biddle on Friday was striking out so many hitters.

"I had a lot of deep counts and 12 strikeouts, and I wasn't trying to get the strikeouts," he said. "I was looking for some quick outs."

This season Biddle is 9-5 with a 3.26 ERA. He has struck out 137 and walked 51 in 1292/3 innings. Biddle, who turns 21 on Oct. 22, is nearing his career high in innings pitched. Last season he threw 133 innings for Lakewood.

Pettibone progresses

Righthander Jonathan Pettibone, The Inquirer's No. 3 Phillies prospect, has fared well since being promoted from Reading to Lehigh Valley.

In four starts, the 22-year-old Pettibone is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Not overpowering, Pettibone has struck out 19 and walked 10 in 25 innings for Lehigh Valley. He was 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 1171/3 innings at Reading.

"He pitches to his strengths and doesn't vary and is very consistent," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development. "He has done what he has needed to do to be successful at the double-A and triple-A level."


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