Jesse Biddle battled through illness, injury

Jesse Biddle is still prized by the Phils despite his struggles.
Jesse Biddle is still prized by the Phils despite his struggles.
Posted: September 09, 2013

Jesse Biddle was so good in April that there were pleas from fans in Philadelphia to get him to the big leagues immediately.

The reports from double-A Reading were astonishingly good, with the highlight being a seven-inning, one-hit performance at Harrisburg that included 16 strikeouts. He followed that with a one-hit performance over six innings against New Hampshire that included 10 strikeouts.

Around that same time, however, Biddle began having coughing fits. He'd wake up in the morning with headaches and eventually had to see a doctor. The diagnosis was pertussis - whooping cough - and it dogged Biddle the remainder of the season. A postseason MRI also revealed that he pitched the final month with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Biddle, hyperactive by his own admission, has been told to take it easy for a while now that the season is over. He did not make his final scheduled start Monday for Reading and ended the year 5-14 with a 3.59 ERA.

"I never want to use any illness as an excuse," the lefty from Germantown Friends School said. "I felt I could pitch. I was diagnosed in late April and I had it through the whole season. It was better some days and worse other days, but it always seemed to be at its worst when I was pitching. But I told them I could pitch and when you do that you live with the consequences."

The consequences ended up being that Biddle, the best pitching prospect in the organization, could not duplicate his April dominance through the remainder of the season. He was 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA through the first month and 3-13 with a 4.12 ERA the remainder of the season. Despite the foot pain, Biddle finished strong, posting a 2.81 ERA in six August starts.

"I think it was a tough year for him," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "I don't think the kid ever really recovered from the illness he had. He tried to pitch through it, but he just never got back to the consistency he needed. He didn't command his fastball pretty much the whole second half of the year.

"But Jesse Biddle is going to be fine. His stuff was better this year than it was last year. It's just the execution wasn't there."

Biddle, in fact, finished third in the league in strikeouts and ninth in earned-run average. He also led the league in walks.

"It was an adventure," Biddle said. "It was definitely humbling and really just a learning experience. I went through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and I think I came out of it on top in a lot of ways. I felt like I learned a lot more this year than I ever could have imagined I would."

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