As he enters the season's stretch run, Jesse Biddle can feel the physical effects of the innings that continue to add up on his score sheet. After all, this is just his first full professional season, and he's just a year removed from graduating high school.
The Mount Airy native is on a tight pitch count - assistant general manager Chuck LeMar said that is something the Phillies do with all their young pitchers. In his last 10 starts for low-A Lakewood of the South Atlantic League, Biddle has gone past the sixth inning just once. For the season Biddle has pitched just under 125 innings.
"Right now innings are getting up there and you don't want to be throwing a lot of pitches," Biddle said. "I'm going to the instructional league and I just want to take my time. They want me to end the season strong."
Biddle said he felt fine and joked after Thursday's start that he could have gone another four innings to get the complete game. He was told before the season that his first full season would be the toughest, and he now understands why. Along with a fastball, Biddle mixes in a curveball and change-up.
Biddle's fastball has dipped to around 91 m.p.h., which is around 4 m.p.h. slower than usual. In high school, Biddle said he was concerned about velocity. But not anymore, he said.
"It's been all over the place," said Biddle. "Especially this late in the season, I feel like it might be going down a bit naturally. It's not like I'm trying to throw slower or anything."
On Thursday, the lefthander picked up his sixth win of the season (against eight losses) in a 6-2 victory over Greensboro. He struck out seven batters and allowed two runs (one earned) over five innings. He struck out the side to start the first inning, which he said helped him build confidence that his mechanics were working. He was able to locate his fastball throughout the game and wasn't afraid to challenge hitters inside with it.
In the fourth inning, Biddle served up a home run to a batter for the second time this season. He said he made a mistake on a low fastball, and it was driven to deep left-center. He settled in to retire the next three in order.
"I was really mad, I was angry," he said. "I just wanted to get back. You can't dwell on that. The next guy's going to hit a double if you do."
A graduate of Germantown Friends, Biddle has had the advantage of living close to home and having family attend his starts. On Thursday, Biddle had 30 tickets waiting at will-call. Next season, however, he's most likely bound for the Phillies' high-A affiliate in Clearwater.
"It's nice to have the people that I care about and care about me at every single game," Biddle said. "If I pitched one inning and gave up eight runs, they'd still be cheering me on."
Gulf Coast League
The Phillies signed their top two draft picks, beating Monday's midnight deadline. Both outfielder Larry Greene and shortstop Roman Quinn will report soon to the Gulf Coast League, but they will not see game action until the organization's instructional league in the fall, according to Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar.
(Low A, 61-60, fifth place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)
In his first game with the BlueClaws on Thursday, Drew Hillman drove in three runs, including his first professional homer. Selected by the Phillies in the 18th round of the 2011 draft, Hillman is a righthanded third baseman from the University of California-Irvine. He spent 25 games in the Gulf Coast League (.310, 6 RBIs).
(34-24, second place, New York Penn League Pinckney Division)
Kelly Dugan, the Phillies' first selection (75th overall) in the 2009 draft, will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his back. On Thursday afternoon, Dugan's Facebook account said he played two weeks with the injury and "will need just rest and then rehab."
LaMar said the decision to sideline Dugan was precautionary, and he expects the 20-year-old to jump to Lakewood next season. Dugan was having his best professional season (.284, 21 RBIs in 47 games) with the Crosscutters.
(High A, 65-56, third place, Florida State League North Division)
Tyson Gillies remains sidelined with a foot injury, playing in just three games this season. He recently shed his walking boot and has returned to physical activity. But Gillies will miss the remainder of the season. LaMar expects him to be back for the fall instructional league.
Gillies was one of the three-players acquired by the Phillies in December 2009 from Seattle for Cliff Lee.
Shin splints have kept outfielder Leandro Castro out of the lineup since June 16. In 56 games this season, the 21-year-old has hit .277 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs He also will return for the instructional league, LaMar said.
(Double A, 62-62, tied for second, Eastern League Eastern Division)
Righthander Austin Hyatt has struck out more than a batter per inning on average. Earlier this month, the 25-year-old struck out 12 over seven innings but left with a no decision. LaMar said the organization likes Hyatt's effectiveness in striking out batters and also his consistency locating pitches. He has walked just 13, compared with 66 strikeouts, in 532/3 innings pitched.
Another component of the Cliff Lee trade, righthander J.C. Ramirez, has struggled (8-13,4.82 ERA). In his last five starts, he is 0-4 with a 7.33 ERA.
Ramirez's fastball has reached upward of 98 m.p.h. But he has been unable to develop a secondary pitch.
"Until he comes up with a secondary pitch, he will continue to struggle," LaMar said.
(Triple A, 72-55, tied for first, International League North Division)
Since being promoted from Reading at the beginning of the month, shortstop Freddy Galvis has flourished at the plate. Galvis has a .304 average in 16 games, including two multihit games last week. LaMar also pointed out his efficiency in the field.
"He's a baseball player that brings his defensive game every day," LaMar said.
If Jimmy Rollins leaves via free agency after the season, Galvis would be the top candidate in the organization to replace the longtime Phillie.
- Matt Breen