Minor league players learn the ropes the hard way more often than not. Jesse Biddle had a storybook season, just not the story he wanted. His March spring training outings were definitive and astounding. He threw four innings for the Phillies AAA team, facing off against R.A. Dickey, and left the game up 4-0 with five strikeouts, three hits, and one walk. He was named Player of the Month in the EAL and Pitcher of the Month by the Phillies for April. But he had contracted whooping cough, and by the beginning of May he was in the throes of that illness and it would dog him all season. In July his left foot would begin to bother him too. Diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, he would be in various levels of pain through August.
And yet he was the winning pitcher in the Futures Game in New York City. As we noted in earlier in another post, he had a strong August up until his last game where the pertussis and the foot would limit him to just three innings. That ERA stayed low most of the season. He ended the season with a 3.64 ERA and a career .210 batting average against him. He also had a career high of 154 strike outs.
Considering his physical condition, what he accomplished this year was pretty good. He faced rehabbing big leaguers a number of times (including Eduardo Nunez, Stephen Drew and Alex Rogriguez) and handled most with no trouble (A-Rod smacked a homer, but Jesse also struck him out in the next at-bat).
Will it be enough to get a promotion to AAA next year or an invite to big league camp? Those are questions that the Phillies will answer over time. The key right now is healing — both the lungs and the bottom of his left foot. It’s likely that he will need at least another month of down time — maybe two — before he really starts his off-season workouts in full. But it really doesn’t matter where he starts next season. If he’s in AA, it won’t be long.
Maybe most importantly, from late July on, in the midst of his struggles, Jesse found the touch he needs in order to throw a quality change up. In several games where his curve wasn’t what he wanted it to be, he went to the change and it got better and better. In 2012 he figured out how to command his fastball inside to righties. In 2013 the change became an effective, consistent pitch for him. We predict it will only get better in 2014…and the slider (which he has had command of for the past two years) will very likely start to show up more and more as well.
It’s all there. He just needs a bit more time to put it all together. He knows he can dominate hitters at any level when he’s “On.” The question is, how on is “On” for #54? Only time will tell.
See you out there in about six months…
Listen to the Phoul Ballz Podcast interview from 9/19/13. The whole thing is a hoot, but Jesse comes online around the 20:00 mark.