A few days after his long-awaited major-league debut, a former top prospect led the Atlanta Braves into Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
Wait, you thought we were talking about Ronald Acuna?
While baseball continues to buzz about Acuna’s arrival — and his moonshot home run into the upper deck Thursday — lefthander Jesse Biddle is completing an impressive first week in the big leagues. A product of Germantown Friends and a 2010 first-round pick of the Phillies, Biddle didn’t allow a run in 4 1/3 innings over three appearances against the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds.
But this weekend will represent a different sort of first for Biddle, who gets to come home and face the team that drafted him, former teammates in the opposing dugout and friends and family in the stands.
“There’s definitely a few more people reaching out to me asking to come to games than when we were in Cincinnati,” Biddle said before the Phillies’ 7-3 win in the series opener. “But it’s all people who want to support me. It’s just going to be cool pitching in front of friends and family in a park that I’ve been to before and been a fan in for a long time.”
Biddle, 26, spent six years in the Phillies organization, reaching triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before spring training in 2016 and claimed off waivers by the Braves a few weeks later.
Last year, and for the first few weeks of this season in triple-A, Biddle got an up-close look at Acuna, a 20-year-old left fielder who has been widely touted as the best prospect in baseball.
“I’ve played with and against a lot of really good players. If he’s not at the top, I don’t know who is,” Biddle said. “It’s just a lot of fun to watch. I think everybody would agree that when he’s up to bat everything kind of stops. You saw that home run he hit in Cincinnati. It’s just what he does. It’s not anything new to us. We see him do it all the time.”
In preparation for their first look at Acuna, the Phillies reviewed video of his minor-league at-bats. Manager Gabe Kapler also reached out to a friend who managed against Acuna in the minors.
“He walked me through his scouting report, and then what I did is I watched him on video and tried to create a little bit more of a robust look,” Kapler said. “I watched a lot of his video today, and I filtered for curveballs, I filtered for fastballs. And one thing we know about him is he takes an athletic swing on just about any pitch you throw up there.”
Acuna finished 2-for-4 and flashed his speed on an RBI double to medium-depth center field in the first inning. He also stole a hit from Odubel Herrera with a diving catch in left field in the third.
Taking the fifth
With righthander Ben Lively heading to the 10-day disabled list with a lower-back strain, the Phillies are sorting through internal and triple-A options to start Tuesday night in Miami.
“Everything’s still on the table,” Kapler said.
One possibility: Long reliever Drew Hutchison, who has made 74 big-league starts.
Lively complained after his start Thursday about not being able to get loose. He allowed seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lively said he didn’t feel any pain but the stiffness in his back intensified throughout the start.
The Phillies recalled righthander Jake Thompson from triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Lively’s roster spot. Kapler said Thompson will be used as a multi-inning reliever.
Mired in a 1-for-13 slump, catcher Jorge Alfaro went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and an RBI single. … With a single in his first at-bat, Rhys Hoskins became the first Phillies player since Von Hayes in 1989 to have a .500 on-base percentage through his first 100 plate appearances of a season. “Relatively unheard of for a young player like that,” Kapler said. “I don’t even know how often it happens, period.” … With a win Saturday night, the Phillies would be eight games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.