LAKELAND, Fla. - Bob McClure, whose tenure in major-league baseball dates to 1975, said he once surveyed about 100 major- leaguers with 10 or more years of experience. The reason was to learn at what point bona fide big- leaguers realize they truly belong at the highest level of their sport.
Nearly every one of them, McClure said, offered an answer of between their third and fourth big-league seasons.
McClure, the second-year Phillies pitching coach, recounted that one morning this week while speaking about the second-youngest starter in the team's major-league camp. Jesse Biddle, McClure reasoned, is still growing as a pitcher.
The lefthander from Germantown Friends needs to trust his stuff, McClure said.
"I want to see him fill the zone up," he said. "He's got too good of stuff to be picking or fooling around. He's got three major-league pitches, and I'd like to see him fill the zone up better. It's too many balls, too many high pitches."
Biddle is slated to make his second - and perhaps last - appearance of the 2015 Grapefruit League season on Friday in Clearwater against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 2010 first-round draft pick last spring pitched twice for the Phillies before he was sent to minor-league camp.
After a struggle-
filled 2014, Biddle will likely start this season back in double-A Reading. He allowed two runs on three hits in a one-inning outing on Saturday.
Biddle's goal this season, McClure said, should be to become a "strike-throwing machine. Period."
"Whether it's high or low, whatever. Right now, if I'm Jesse Biddle, I ain't throwing a ball," McClure said. "Now that's not going to happen, but I'd like to see that mind-set. Just playing the game and competing but, 'I'm coming right after you.' It ain't about picking here or there, setting guys up. [The heck with] that. I've got three pitches to get you out. See what you can do with it."
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, a member of the Phillies' TV team for Sunday home games last season, will also provide analysis for Saturday home games this year, according to MLB.com. A Comcast SportsNet spokesman was unable to comment Thursday. . . . The Phillies on April 9 will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the franchise's first National League championship with a pregame tribute.