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Phils prospect Biddle fans a dozen06/03/2012 6:57 PM ET
By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com
There is a reason that the pitching coordinators of the world are challenging all-universe pitchers such as Dylan Bundy (Orioles) and Jameson Taillon (Pirates) to throw more changeups against hitters who have trouble hitting their fastball.
And Jesse Biddle -- add him to the list -- now knows why. The Phillies' No. 2 -- and baseball's No. 73 overall -- prospect sat down with his Class A Advanced Clearwater coaches and decided this plain but effective pitch is a gateway to the Majors.
Ceding to advice, Biddle retired a career-high dozen batters via the strikeout over seven innings on Sunday afternoon in the Threshers' 3-0 shutout of the visiting Palm Beach Cardinals.
Biddle (3-2), Philadelphia's top draftee in 2010, allowed a leadoff double to Mike O'Neill and three other hits but nothing else. He retired his final 11 batters in a row.
"My coaches wanted me to throw the changeup more -- we talked about what it takes to take it to the next level, Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues -- so I emphasized that more than usual.
"It was big. I got a couple of swings and misses, keeping them off the scent of my fastball and curveball, which are my best two pitches. I got a good amount of strikeouts on those, but also got a couple on my changeup. To be able to throw all three pitches with two strikes, that makes them more lethal."
The 20-year-old left-hander has pitched seven innings in three consecutive outings, has won four straight decisions and ranks third in Florida State League strikeouts with 64 through 57 1/3 innings.
"The strikeouts are nice, but I wasn't putting guys away quick enough," said Biddle, who threw 104 pitches. "I wanted to go eight or nine innings."
Biddle bested his previous single game high in Ks by two: He fanned 10 over five frames while pitching for the Gulf Coast League Phillies in an Aug. 4, 2010 game.
As well as Biddle has pitched through 11 starts in 2012 -- he has compiled a 2.51 ERA in his first trek through the Class A Advanced ranks -- Sunday marked his first scoreless outing. That is, discounting his third-of-an-inning appearance on May 1, when he was struck in his throwing arm by a hard-hit comebacker.
He credits working deeper into games -- he has pitched six or more innings in six straight outings and seven in his last three -- to, go figure, walking fewer batters. It's been a sticking point for Biddle in the past: He issued 66 free passes in 133 innings at Class A Lakewood in 2011, his first full pro season.
"That's been the biggest change," he said. Batters "have to earn their way onto the bases."
The lifelong Phils fan also said the 23 pounds he shed entering this campaign has left him feeling more fit on the mound. A routine regiment with the Threshers' strength and conditioning coach has kept him on the right track two months into the season.
"It's a couple of things, losing the weight and getting more fit. It's been huge," said Biddle, who stands 6-foot-4 and now weighs about 215. "Today, I wasn't tired at all. It was a 1 o'clock start [in Florida weather], so you'd figure I would tire, but I think the seventh was my best inning."
Threshers first baseman Drew Hillman supplied much of Biddle's run support. Hillman smacked a two-run homer in the third off of starter Nicholas Gillung and also doubled.
"He hit the ball very well today," Biddle said of Hillman. "That got the offense rolling a little bit."
Gillung (0-2) yielded all three runs on six hits over five innings. He struck out four but walked five.