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Biddle returns with five hitless frames

Phillies' No. 4 prospect strikes out five after mental health break
August 6, 2014

Jesse Biddle is on a quest to reconnect with baseball. On Wednesday, he made connecting with baseballs somebody else's problem.

The Phillies' No. 4 prospect returned from a roughly 1 1/2-month hiatus Wednesday and dominated for Class A Advanced Clearwater, pitching five no-hit innings in a 4-0 win over Daytona.

Biddle, placed on the temporarily inactive list in late June while with Double-A Reading, struck out five batters and walked one in his first Florida State League start since 2012.

The 22-year-old left-hander went on the inactive list to rehab a concussion suffered in late May and also to get a mental health break. He told the Reading Eagle in June, "I'm miserable out there. I'm very unhappy and I don't know why."

The 2010 first-round pick made his final Double-A start on June 23, taking a break after posting a 5.03 ERA in 15 outings. During the time off, he worked with a team of Phillies staff members to rediscover his old form.

"I was really focused on where I want to be, having a concussion and going to rehab for that," Biddle said. "Then, also, just reconnecting with the game of baseball. I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. I need to keep it simple. That's the biggest thing, finding myself again on the mound. So far, so good."

Biddle said there's no set plan for where he'll throw going forward.

"I know I want the ball in five days. That's all I care about," he said. "I don't care where they put me. I don't care who's in the box. I want the ball and I want to see what I can do with it."

Biddle settled in quickly Wednesday, striking out Jacob Hannemann and Marco Hernandez to start the game. Hannemann gave Biddle a fight, fouling off a few 3-2 pitches before finally going down swinging.

"That kind of helped me out," Biddle said. "I threw a few pitches to him, and that really helped me focus in."

The Philadelphia native didn't have a pitch count Wednesday but was only slated for five innings. He felt he was at an advantage because seven of Daytona's starting nine were left-handed hitters, and he was able to mix his whole arsenal of pitches against the Cubs.

Biddle was hesitant to pull too much from the outing but said he viewed it as a solid stepping stone on his path back.

"I feel like a different person when I'm pitching," he said. "I'm one start in, so obviously, it's easy to feel that way right now. It's about being consistent. There's not a whole lot of season left for us Minor Leaguers, but I really want to make the most of it. Every start and every pitch counts."

Especially helpful to Biddle have been Phillies employee assistance professional Dickie Noles, senior advisor Mike Compton and pitching coordinator Carlos Arroyo.

"Those guys, they're pretty amazing," Biddle said. "The stuff they taught me and the stuff we've worked on is stuff I want to use for the rest of my career. As long as I can stay focused on what they taught me and focused on the ideas of how they view the game, that'll get me to the place I want to be."

Lino Martinez relieved Biddle for the sixth and carried the no-hitter into the eighth, when Cubs No. 9 prospect Billy McKinney lined a single to right field. Ulises Joaquin pitched around a hit and a walk over the final 1 1/3 innings to notch his third save.

Brandon Short staked Biddle and the Threshers to a quick lead with a solo homer in the second and Art Charles capped a three-run fourth with a two-run blast.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.