Biddle's struggles growing at Reading

Reading's Jesse Biddle was removed from his last start after walking five in the fourth inning. He gave up seven runs in 21/3 innings in his previous start.
Reading's Jesse Biddle was removed from his last start after walking five in the fourth inning. He gave up seven runs in 21/3 innings in his previous start. (Reading Fightin Phils)
Posted: June 16, 2014

READING - Jesse Biddle's body language said it all. He was flummoxed after his start Wednesday, searching for answers he didn't have. He reflected disappointment in himself with every word he spoke, his eyes downcast and his hands in his pockets.

"Baseball is simple," Biddle said. "Pitching, you just want to throw the ball where the glove is. I have a tendency to complicate it."

In a matter of weeks, the 22-year-old lefthander out of Germantown Friends School has gone from top prospect to top cause of concern in the Phillies' system.

His troubles started when he had to miss a start May 25 after being struck in the head by a hailstone. They continued a week ago Friday, when he gave up seven runs in 21/3 innings and became even more worrisome when he walked five batters in the fourth inning Wednesday and lasted just 31/3 innings. For the season he's 3-7 with a 4.06 ERA.

After Wednesday's outing, Biddle admitted it was the most frustrated he has felt in a long time. He said he didn't know how he could get better, either.

The start began uneventfully. Biddle threw the ball over the plate for two scoreless innings. In the third, he showed signs of unraveling, walking a batter on four pitches after catcher Logan Moore committed a throwing error.

In the fourth, baseball became confounding, and a familiar pattern continued.

Reading rightfielder Jiwan James dropped a ball in right-center field and New Britain's Reynaldo Rodriguez advanced to third. Once again, Biddle failed to pick up his teammates. He threw seven straight balls and eventually loaded the bases with two walks. Brad Boyer then hit a sacrifice fly to score Rodriguez.

Instead of building on the out, Biddle imploded. He walked three straight batters, and Reading manager Dusty Wathan had seen enough and removed him from the game.

"He's got to handle adversity a little bit better now," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development.

Biddle threw 85 pitches in the outing. Just 45 were strikes.

One National League scout in attendance thought Biddle was more deserving of a demotion than playing in the major leagues.

"You have to throw strikes," the scout said. "Not until he throws strikes over here. Or Clearwater.

"I'd have to give some consideration to sending him to Clearwater."

Wathan was concerned, implying Biddle's problems were between the ears. Wathan knows it's time for Biddle to produce.

"Obviously, all the publicity with him being from Philly and a first-round pick and everything," Wathan said. "It's time for him to put up numbers, to put up the expectations that people have for him. He has to rise to those."

At a time when many thought Biddle should be preparing to come home, Philadelphia has felt only farther away.


mcohen@phillynews.com

@MaxACohen

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