Pitching prospect Biddle setting the right pace at Lakewood

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"If I'm working quick, I'm not going to think too much," Jesse Biddle said. (Photo courtesy of the Lakewood BlueClaws)

IF A NINE-INNING contest wraps up in 2 hours, 3 minutes, it's accurate to call it a quick game.

That's how long it took Lakewood to knock off the Delmarva Shorebirds on May 18, a 2-0 victory. Jesse Biddle started and won it. He tossed six shutout innings, fanned eight and put on his best performance of the season.

But back to the time-of-game thing. Biddle has been working on his "tempo," as he put it, finding a tempo he likes, finding a tempo he trusts. He has found in his last few starts that he likes to work quickly, and the big lefthander from Germantown Friends is starting show why the Phillies made him their first pick in last year's draft.

Why the quick tempo? To avoid overthinking things.

"If I'm working quick, I'm not going to think too much and hopefully the hitter's not going to think too much, because I don't really want them to," Biddle (2-5, 4.78) said in a recent interview. "I know what pitch I want to throw and I want [the hitter] to be guessing. When they don't have any time to think at all, they're not going to have time to react, either."

He's been good-to-brilliant in four of his last five starts. The one hiccup came May 13, a loss to Hagerstown in which he allowed four earned runs in six innings. Even that start wasn't a disaster: He gave up all four runs in the second inning and was otherwise solid. He has been dogged in a few of his starts by one bad inning. He found that when he ran into trouble, he tended rush things. In other words, he needed to maintain his tempo.

Opposing hitters and even the umpires aren't thrilled with the brisk pace. Against Delmarva, his quick work led to several delayed calls from the plate umpire. The man in blue nudged catcher Torre Langley to have Biddle slow it down a bit.

It's safe to say he has no regrets about his snappy tempo. "It makes me feel good, it makes me know they're a little off balance," he said of the hitters and umps. "It's a pace I feel comfortable with."

Quick update: Biddle pitched again yesterday at West Virginia, with decent results. He went five innings, allowed three runs and three hits, but walked five in a no-decision. He did avoid a big inning, despite allowing quite a few baserunners, and Lakewood won it, 6-5.

VALLE BACK

Sebastian Valle's name has been coming up quite a bit recently. And why not? He's the top catching prospect in the organization. So, pardon the Phillies' brass if they gulped when Valle went on the disabled list a little more than week ago. He was involved in a home-plate collision in Clearwater's loss to Palm Beach on May 13 and suffered a concussion.

He's back. Valle returned to the lineup Sunday and went 1-for-4 in the Threshers' 6-3 win over Jupiter. He's hitting .333.

Interesting note about the catchers down on the farm: Don't expect Valle, or any Phillies' catching prospect, to peek back at the dugout for the coaches to relay the pitches they want thrown.

The Phillies want the pitchers and catchers to learn how to call their own games, so they're told early on in their careers: You call 'em.

"We have a philosophy as an organization that once the game begins, the only way they're going to learn how to do it is for [the pitcher and catcher] to call their own games," said assistant general manager Chuck LaMar, the Phillies director of player development.

BAFFLING BASEBALL

Baseball can be downright befuddling at times.

For example, the Phillies have a righthanded hitter named Matt Miller playing rightfield at Double A Reading. His minor league numbers appear to suggest that he's worthy of at least one swing in the big leagues.

In eight minor league seasons, Miller is a career .312 hitter with 91 homers. In parts of five seasons at Triple A, he has averaged .321 and was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star in 2009 and 2010.

In fact, last year he hit .325 at Colorado Springs and finished third in the PCL batting race. The Rockies released him in the offseason. The Phillies invited him to spring training, assigned him to Lehigh Valley and shipped him to Reading after only 15 games with the IronPigs. He's hitting .273 with the R-Phils after 17 games.

Meanwhile, righty-hitting Tagg Bozied is getting the majority of time at first base for the IronPigs after starting the season on the disabled list. In 11 minor league seasons, the first six on San Diego's farm, Bozied has compiled a .285 average with 157 home runs. He has spent parts of eight seasons at Triple A, averaging .283 with 97 home runs. Through the weekend, he was hitting .320, with two homers and seven RBI in eight games.

To boot, he was with Reading last year and won the Eastern League batting crown (.315), with 27 homers and 92 RBI, narrowly missing the EL triple crown.

Miller is 28, Bozied's 31. Neither has played so much as an inning in the majors. And time is not their friend.

Both are relatively new to the organization, so the Phillies aren't to blame for their stalled careers. And we're not suggesting these guys are future Hall of Famers. But never even a September call-up?

ON THE RADAR

It might be a good idea to start getting familiar with Lakewood outfielder Domingo Santana.

He's hitting .270 with five homers and 13 RBI, but the prospect radar really started pulsating this weekend. The 6-5, 200-pound righthanded hitter went 7-for-13 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and four RBI in three games against West Virginia. In 10 games since May 12, he hit .350 (14-for-40) with three homers and three doubles. Another thing: He's only 18. Won't turn 19 until August.

ON THE FARM

Lehigh Valley (AAA)

IronPigsBaseball.com/610-841-7447

Today: vs. Gwinnett, 10:35 a.m.

Tomorrow: Off

Thursday: vs. Rochester, 7:05

Friday: vs. Rochester, 7:05

Saturday: vs. Rochester, 6:35

Sunday: vs. Rochester, 1:35

Monday: at Gwinnett, 7:05

Reading (AA)

ReadingPhillies.com/610-375-8469

Tonight: vs. Trenton, 6:35.

Tomorrow: vs. Trenton, 6:35

Thursday: vs. Trenton, 11:05 a.m.

Friday: at Erie, 6:35

Saturday: at Erie, 6:35

Sunday: at Erie, 1:05

Monday: at Erie, 1:05

Clearwater (A)

ThreshersBaseball.com/727-467-4457

Tonight: at Jupiter, 6:35

Tomorrow: at Jupiter, 6:35

Thursday: at Fort Myers, 7:05

Friday: at Fort Myers, 7:05

Saturday: at Fort Myers, 7:05

Sunday: at Fort Myers, 1:05

Monday: Off

Lakewood (A)

BlueClaws.com/732-901-7000

Today: Off

Tomorrow: vs. Greensboro, 11:05 a.m.

Thursday: vs. Greensboro, 6:35

Friday: vs. Greensboro, 7:05

Saturday: vs. Greensboro, 7:05

Sunday: vs. Delmarva, 7:05

Monday: vs. Delmarva, 12:05