Struggling Biddle given a 'mental break'

Posted: June 27, 2014

IN THE SPAN of 3 weeks, Jesse Biddle has gone from the top pitching prospect in the Phillies' farm system to a struggling starter removed from Double A Reading's rotation.

Biddle was placed on the temporarily inactive list yesterday.

"We decided to give Jesse a mental break," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "In order to do that, we had to place him on the temporary inactive list."

Biddle, the Germantown Friends product the Phillies selected with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 draft, is 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in his second season at Reading.

In his most recent start, Monday at Binghamton, Biddle gave up 10 runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out two in three innings of a 12-8 loss. It was the third time in his last four starts that Biddle failed to pitch at least four innings.

Biddle, rated the 71st best prospect in baseball by Baseball America last winter, appears to be in the midst of a crisis of confidence.

"I'm struggling with a lot of stuff," Biddle told the Reading Eagle yesterday. "I'm miserable out there. I'm very unhappy. And I don't know why. There's really no answer right now."

Biddle has battled command problems regularly in his minor league career.

Even while sporting a 3.64 ERA last season, when he represented the Phillies at the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York, Biddle had a 1.35 WHIP and walked 82 batters in 138 1/3 innings. In his last seven starts of 2013, Biddle walked 28 in 33 1/3 innings.

After starting this season fairly strong - 2.86 ERA and seven walks in his first five starts - Biddle again returned to his wild ways. In his last 10 starts, Biddle has struck out 38 while walking 33 in 50 1/3 innings.

Biddle also missed a start last month after getting struck in the head during a hailstorm. He ended up with concussion symptoms.

But that was a month ago. Biddle is at a loss for what's gone wrong in June, when he's gone 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA.

"Nothing feels fluid on the mound, nothing feels natural, nothing feels right," Biddle told the Reading Eagle. "Everything feels out of sync. I just want to pitch, but, at the same time, there's a lot of stuff going on in between my ears that I can't really understand. I have never felt this way before in my entire life, in my entire career."

Brown out of lineup

After starting 21 games in a row, Domonic Brown was out of the lineup for the second time in the last three games.

Brown, who is hitting .189 in the last 2 months, took extra, early batting practice with Carlos Ruiz and Tony Gwynn Jr. yesterday afternoon. Both hitting coach Steve Henderson and manager Ryne Sandberg worked with the trio.

"I had a good conversation with him about making adjustments and then applying them," Sandberg said. "Trying to apply them during the game both on the offensive side and the defensive side of the game. Being prepared out there on defense for every pitch. Knowing the game situation and getting good jumps on balls . . . I see somebody that wants to make a correction and understand it. And then applying it in a game situation is the next step. To do things in drills in one thing; to do it when the games start is a whole other thing."

In addition to his offensive woes, Brown made costly mistakes in leftfield in two of the first three games of the Marlins series.

Brown entered play yesterday hitting .217 with a .271 OBP and five home runs. His .593 OPS ranked 164th out of 168 major leaguers that qualify. And only nine players - six middle infielders and outfielders Norichika Aoki - have fewer extra-base hits than Brown's 17 in 75 games.

Sandberg was noncommittal when asked whether Brown's current break from the starting lineup would be for more than one game.

"We'll see," he said. "I'll have some conversations and see what's best."

John Mayberry Jr. started in leftfield, but Brown pinch-hit for him in the seventh, singling and scoring a run.

O'Sullivan to start

Sean O'Sullivan will become the 23rd pitcher (and eighth starter) the Phillies will use in the season's first 81 games when he takes the mound in the nightcap of tomorrow's doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves.

Sandberg announced before last night's game that O'Sullivan would start. O'Sullivan, who was in spring training with the Phillies as a nonroster invitee, is 3-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 15 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

O'Sullivan, 26, was 0-2 with a 3.96 ERA in seven games (three starts) with the San Diego Padres last season.

He was chosen over Brad Lincoln, who is 3-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 10 games since moving to a starting role. Lincoln has a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts.

One theory: Whoever was making the spot start is almost certainly only on the roster for a day, as the Phillies use the 26th-man rule for a doubleheader, and then head out on Sunday. Lincoln would have had to clear waivers to get back to Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies will have to create a spot on the 40-man roster for O'Sullivan before the game.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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