Clearwater lefty Biddle finding his groove

Posted: August 27, 2012

For the second straight season, lefthander Jesse Biddle is finishing fast after starting slow. Biddle, the Phillies' first-round draft choice (27th overall) in the 2010 draft out of Germantown Friends, was 0-2 with a 5.71 ERA in four April starts for high-single-A Clearwater, Fla.

He bounced back to go 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA in six May starts and was on his way.

With Thursday's 3-0 win over the Daytona Cubs, Biddle ran his scoreless inning streak to 16. In his previous start, he threw seven no-hit innings in an 11-0 win over Brevard County.

Biddle is 10-5 with a 3.10 ERA. He also has pitched a career-high 1362/3 innings, with 146 strikeouts and 53 walks.

At Lakewood, N.J., last season he was 7-8 with a 2.98 ERA. Biddle had 124 strikeouts and 66 walks in 133 innings. Those statistics are even more impressive considering that Biddle was 1-5 with a 5.57 ERA in his first seven starts, covering 321/3 innings.

Biddle, who will turn 21 in October, is The Inquirer's No. 2-ranked Phillies prospect.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Biddle said he was getting used to the physical grind. He attributed his slow starts the last two years to the mental side of things.

"I am starting to figure out the workouts, the Phillies do an unbelievable job of getting me ready physically before a game," Biddle said in a telephone interview. "Early in the season, mentally, I think I was a little bit more scattered than I should be."

Biddle still is building arm strength. Gradually increasing his innings is part of the plan.

"Coming from Philadelphia, I didn't have many innings under my belt," Biddle said. "Jumping into this in pro ball was tough because it was more than I have ever thrown, by a lot."

Clearwater manager Chris Truby has been at the forefront of Biddle's development. Truby was also Biddle's manager last year at Lakewood.

"Over the course of the last two years there has been dramatic improvement with commanding his fastball to both sides of the plate and to his change-up," Truby said. "As of late he has been able to throw his curveball for strikes early in the count to give a different look."

What has really impressed the Phillies is how Biddle responded after struggling to begin the last two years.

"The fact that he turned it around and has been on a good, steady upward path the majority of the year speaks to the type of person and competitor Jesse is and how good a worker he is," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "He really has every intangible to be good at this game."

Truby said Biddle can consistently throw 91-92 m.p.h. and occasionally touch 94.

"His speed is plenty, especially when he's working both sides of the plate," Truby said.

Biddle understands that it's a long process to reach the majors. Next year he will likely pitch at double-A Reading. Biddle welcomes the chance to pitch closer to home, but he also emphasized that thoughts of Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley and then finally the Phillies will have to wait.

"Right now I am playing for the Clearwater Threshers and we're trying to make a playoff run and win a championship," he said. "As soon as I get caught up on the future, I am not focusing on the present."

And focusing on the present is more enjoyable to Biddle than looking at the past, especially when it comes to the beginning of the last two seasons.

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

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