It appears as if the Phillies' patience with Tyson Gillies may finally be paying off.
The most important statistic this season for the centerfielder acquired in the 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle is games played, and that number stood at 23 going into the weekend.
Gillies, because of a variety of injuries, played in only 31 games over the last two seasons, including three last year, when he was sidelined by hamstring and foot injuries.
"If I would have set a goal for him in the spring, it would have been for him to hit .270 or .275 in April and that he would play the entire month," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' first-year director of player development. "He exceeded that."
Gillies, who hit .341 in his final minor-league season with the Mariners, batted .289 with nine extra-base hits in the first month and went into the weekend with a .280 average and a .340 on-base percentage.
"He's an exciting player because of the way he plays center field," Jordan said. "Very few guys can go after a ball the way he can. Offensively, there were some things we tried to adjust in spring training as far as getting in position to hit, and the second half of April he seemed to become more comfortable with them."
Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' 2010 first-round pick from Germantown Friends School, took a line drive off his forearm and faced only one batter in his start Tuesday for single-A Clearwater against the Daytona Cubs.
Jordan said the 20-year-old lefty was fine and would make his next start on schedule. Biddle is 0-2 with a 5.60 ERA, but Jordan said there was no reason for concern.
"It's just a combination of a lot of things that are normal for young pitchers," Jordan said. "Everything I'm hearing about him is good and I really believe he has a good, quality start coming soon."
Biddle went 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA during his first month of the season last year at Lakewood, then posted a 2.39 ERA the remainder of the season.
After the Phillies optioned Jake Diekman to triple-A Lehigh Valley near the end of spring training, pitching coach Rich Dubee said he was so impressed by the lefthanded reliever that he wished he was his agent.
Nothing has happened to change Dubee's opinion.
Diekman, 25, went into the weekend with a 0.73 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 121/3 innings.
Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg said Diekman still has things to work on.
"He just needs to tighten up his command," Sandberg said. "His control is there, but his command can be a notch better. He needs to pitch in different situations and become consistent."
Aaron Altherr struggled so much at single-A Lakewood last year that he was sent back to rookie ball in Williamsport in June. Back at Lakewood, the 21-year-old outfielder now seems ready for that level. He went into the weekend hitting .309 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, and 11 RBIs. He also had nine stolen bases.
Lakewood third baseman Maikel Franco, on the other hand, was hitting just .217 entering the weekend. But he is only 19.