Diekman draws high praise

Phillies prospect Jake Diekman delivers a pitch during an Arizona Fall League game. (AP file photo)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In the middle of Jake Diekman's bullpen session Thursday, Rich Dubee wanted another look. He stood behind the 25-year-old lefty and focused on his throws even as five other pitchers worked alongside him.

The pitching coach positioned himself next to Carlos Ruiz, who caught Diekman. What he saw from the sidearming lefty impressed him.

"You've got to love Diekman's arm," Dubee said. "He's got a tremendous high ceiling."

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Dubee held Diekman after all of the pitchers were done and sat down to talk pitching. The area for improvement, like any young arm, is his secondary pitch. For Diekman, that's a slider.

The Phillies scouted Diekman in the Arizona Fall League and were impressed with his 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. Last season at double-A Reading, Diekman held lefthanders to a 0.99 batting average in 91 at-bats. He did walk 17 against 40 strikeouts and control will be another focus point.

But Dubee envisions more than a lefty specialist role as a possibility for Diekman. He said Diekman's fastball is better than Antonio Bastardo's, but he lacks a quality breaking pitch like Bastardo.

Two years ago, the Phillies dropped Diekman's arm slot to made him a sidearmer.

"He's a little tougher from where his arm slot is, but he’s got some thunder, too," Dubee said. "That's a nice combination."

It also makes him a pitcher to watch this spring and beyond.

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