Monday was a very good night for a couple of Phillies pitching prospects.
Jonathan Pettibone, a 22-year-old right-hander, came up from Triple A and helped the big club beat the Pittsburgh Pirates with 5 1/3 innings of two-run, no-walk baseball (see story).
While Pettibone was making a successful big-league debut in South Philadelphia, Jesse Biddle was having his best night as a professional in Harrisburg.
Pitching for the Double A Reading Fightin Phils, Biddle carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Harrisburg Senators (see video). He finished his night with seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball. He walked two and struck out 16.
Back in Philadelphia, team officials had one eye on Pettibone’s work at Citizens Bank Park and another on the computer screen that provided play by play of Biddle’s gem.
“We were focused on our young guy here,” said Joe Jordan, the Phils’ director of player development. “But the further along Jesse got, our eyes were on that, too.
“What Jesse did was very exciting. To strike out 14 hitters in six innings with 73 pitches is almost impossible to do. That’s like 12 pitches an inning. Very impressive.”
Biddle’s gem led some to wonder why he wasn’t summoned to Philadelphia instead of Pettibone to take the place of injured John Lannan.
There were a number of reasons for the Phillies’ decision. First, Pettibone was on the 40-man roster and Biddle is not. Bringing Biddle up would have required the Phillies waiving a player from the 40-man roster. There’s also the matter of experience. Pettibone had made 87 pro starts, including 28 above the Single A level at the time of his promotion. Biddle had made 65 pro starts entering Monday, just three above the Single A level. If the Phils were to bring someone other than Pettibone, it would have been Tyler Cloyd, who is on the 40-man roster, or Triple A lefty Adam Morgan, who is considered the organization’s most advanced pitching prospect.
“We feel like we’ve got more than one guy to turn to depending on what the major league club’s needs are,” Jordan said.
The Phillies seem to have renewed caution about rushing players to the majors before they are ready. Last year, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. basically admitted that outfielder Domonic Brown was rushed when he sent Brown back to the minors for more development time.
Biddle’s time will come. The 21-year-old local product from Germantown Friends was the Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2010. At his current rate of progress he could be pounding on the big club’s door in a year.
Jordan was Baltimore’s scouting director before coming to the Phillies after the 2011 season. He scouted Biddle when the lefty was a prep star in Philadelphia. Biddle is a different pitcher and athlete since then. He’s stronger and in better shape. He’s become a pitcher with a deep arsenal of pitches that he can throw for strikes.
Biddle relied heavily on his fastball –- he was 91 to 94 on the radar gun, according to Jordan –- and his hard-breaking curveball on Monday night.
“He’s got four weapons to go to now,” Jordan said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Jordan has seen Biddle add “finish” to his fastball over the last year.
“The little more finish has added late action to his fastball,” Jordan said. “He’s pitching with as much conviction as a young pitcher can have. He has a lot of confidence. There were times last year when he pitched ‘young.’ He got behind in counts and had some high pitch counts. Now we’re seeing him getting more efficient. He’s growing as a pitcher. He’s got a good look in his eye.”
Biddle is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts at Reading. He still has work to do, Jordan said, especially with holding runners on base, but the overall package is impressive.
Jordan raved about Biddle’s intangibles.
“He’s made like the good ones are made,” said Jordan, pointing to his chest. “He’s totally into the program. He does everything he’s supposed to between starts. He’s a total pro. It’s all coming together for him –- strength, knowledge, everything.”