NEW YORK — Even though they’re teammates, Jesse Biddle wasn’t afraid to talk some smack to Maikel Franco, his teammate with the Reading Fightin Phils, before Monday’s Futures Game.
“Before the game,” Franco recalled, “he told me ‘if I face you, I’m going to strike you out.’”
He was right.
It took Biddle just three pitches — two curveballs sandwiched around a 94 mile per hour heater — to dispatch of his teammate and close the fourth inning of the annual All-Star prelude, held this year at New York’s Citi Field.
Overall, the left-hander finished with 1 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings with a walk and the strikeout. Along the way, he showed Phillies fans who tuned into the telecast exactly that their system’s top prospect can do.
When everything is working, Biddle can be unhittable. That much was proved on April 22, when he fanned 16 hitters at Harrisburg’s Metro Bank Park.
As with just about every minor leaguer, Biddle has a few wrinkles to iron out as far as command is concerned. He said on Sunday that he’s also working on streamlining his focus on the hill, with the help of a motivational coach employed by the Phils during the spring.
“We have a guy named Dr. Jack Curtis, who is kind of in charge of, mentally, making sure that we’re doing the right stuff,” Biddle explained. “I think that’s a huge part of baseball that definitely goes overlooked.
Beyond Curtis, Biddle credits his teammates and coaches for helping him stay focused when his mind strays from the task at hand.
“I think everybody (helps),” he said. “My pitching coach Dave Lundquist — I had him last year (in Clearwater) me and him both got called up this year. And then also I think that my first baseman, Jim Murphy.
“When he feels like I’m overthrowing or when he feels like I’m pitching outside of my game, he’ll call timeout and walk over to me on the mound and say ‘hey, I think you’re overthrowing.’ We’ve played together for the last three years, so he knows me pretty well.”
As he stood by his locker on Monday morning, steps away from super prospects like Minnesota’s Byron Buxton, Oakland’s Addison Russell, Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and Miami’s
Christian Yelich, Biddle couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by how far he’s come in such a short amount of time.
“There’s so much talent in this clubhouse,” he mused. “To be able to be mentioned in the same group and the same category as these guys means a lot. I just really want to prove why I’m here.”
With three pitches against his teammate, Biddle can consider that mission accomplished.