Phillies have no timetable for Jesse Biddle’s return

Phillies have no timetable for Jesse Biddle’s return

Jim Salisbury 1-on-1 with Ruben Amaro

July 4, 2014, 7:00 am
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Top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle is 3-9 with a 5.09 ERA at Double A this year. (USA Today Images)

MIAMI -- It has been a week since the Phillies placed pitching prospect Jesse Biddle on the temporary inactive list because the frustrations of a difficult season were weighing on his mind.

According to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Biddle is spending time at the team’s training facility in Clearwater, Fla. He is keeping his body in shape and may do some throwing in the bullpen, but there is no timetable for his return to competitive action. Amaro, in fact, could not say with any certainty that Biddle would pitch again this season.

“If I had to guess, I’d say yes, he’ll pitch again this season,” Amaro said. “But that’s really our least concern right now.

“I’m not as concerned with him pitching this season as trying to help him. He’s a great kid and he wants to be great. It’s time for us to take a little heat off him so he can get his mind right and enjoy baseball again.”

Biddle, 22, grew up in Philadelphia and pitched at Germantown Friends School. The Phillies selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft and he was rated as the organization’s top pitching prospect the last two winters.

Biddle pitched at Double A last season and needed to iron out some control issues so the Phillies sent him back to that level this season with hopes that he’d pitch his way to Triple A by the end of the season. But halfway through the season, the left-hander was 3-9 with a 5.03 ERA in 15 starts. Everything seemed to come to a head in his most recent start as he allowed 10 runs in three innings on June 23. Three days later, the Phillies decided to give Biddle what Amaro called “a mental break.” The pitcher didn’t protest, telling the Reading Eagle, “I’m miserable out there. I’m very unhappy and I don’t know why. Nothing feels fluid on the mound, nothing feels natural.”

Amaro said Biddle did not request the break.

“We thought it was in the best interest of the person,” Amaro said. “It was obvious he was putting a lot of pressure on himself.

“He wasn’t able to make pitches when he needed to. He wasn’t throwing strikes. He was having trouble throwing to bases. We think it was more in his head than anything else.

“The anxiety of it all was affecting his ability to pitch. He needs to just get away from it and get his mind on track.”

Being drafted by the Phillies was a dream come true for Biddle. He was in the stands at Citizens Bank Park the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

But pitching for your hometown organization can come with some pressure.

“He wants to please a lot of people and that makes it doubly difficult,” said Amaro, who, as a Philadelphia native and prep star in the city, experienced similar pressures. “I feel for him.”

It is not unusual for teams to give struggling prospects a little time away from competition. Heck, the Phillies did it with Cole Hamels last season. Then pitching coach Rich Dubee sensed that Hamels was getting frustrated so he slowed him down and pushed one of his starts back to give him a breather. Dubee even called it a mental health break.

Roy Halladay and Jamie Moyer both encountered hurdles that led to stress and frustration as young pitchers. Both benefitted from the counsel of Harvey Dorfman, the legendary sports psychologist who died in 2011.

Amaro would not go deep into the specifics of how the Phillies are trying to help Biddle, but he did say the young pitcher would spend some time with Halladay and Moyer during his time away from competition.

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