PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Besides their issues with Domonic Brown, the Phillies also are having some problems with Jesse Biddle. His next start was scheduled for Sunday in First Energy Stadium in Reading. After that he is to stop pitching for a while and go on the temporary inactive list for a time. Biddle is 0 and 2 after his first three starts and the Phillies General Manager, Ruben Amaro, confirmed that the team has decided to give Biddle “a mental break” to straighten himself out. Biddle himself has admitted, “I’m miserable out there. I’m very unhappy and I don’t know why.” The twenty-two-year-old lefthander has been in a significant pitching slump this season. He was 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA in his last four starts. The Phillies’ 2010 first-round pick out of Germantown Friends High School is 3-9 overall with a 5.03 ERA in 15 starts. It’s tough for this Philadelphia native who was expected to break out big this year. However, on May 22nd in his fifth start, he gave up 10 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. In 3 weeks he gave up 2 homers. Biddle — who is 0-4 with a 12.64 ERA in his last four starts, pitching past the third inning just once — battled the mental side of the game in 2013 too. He suffered through whooping cough, and a postseason MRI exam revealed he pitched the final month of the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. It’s said that he had long talk with Roy Halladay during spring training about the mental aspect of pitching. Biddle said that helped but, “There were a lot of times I failed last year, and I didn’t handle it the right way. There are some things I really want to grow up on and want to improve.” Here’s hoping he can turn things around. The Phils also announced that they had released Double-A outfielder Jiwan James, who they selected in the 22nd round in 2007.
Manager Ryne Sandberg knows he has some problems in his outfield but the one that has to be occupying a lot of his thinking time is the one in left field: Domonic Brown. He has the lowest batting average (.217), the lowest slugging percentage (.322) and OPS (.593) among all left-fielders in baseball who have enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title. Brown’s recent benching – the second in three games – was intended to cause the young outfielder to think seriously about his role, his play and his future. John Mayberry, Jr., who was 5 for 26 in his previous 8 starts, was assigned to left field in his place. Sandberg had a long talk with Brown about making adjustments to his game on both the offensive and defensive sides of his game and indicated that Brown was receptive to his advice.
In speaking about Brown, Sandberg took a little time to share his thoughts about the game of baseball, which made for good reading a few days ago. He said, “”I don’t know if you can teach all of the instincts, but you can teach game situations and anticipating balls, expecting balls to be hit to you on every pitch,” Sandberg said. “That’s a discipline, that’s a focus. A little bit of that might be instincts, but the other part of that is just an all-out focus and discipline and practice.” With regard to Domonic Brown, he said that he “sees somebody that wants to make a correction and understands it, one that realizes he has to make them” to succeed. The question is whether Brown will do this with, as his boss says, consistency, discipline and practice.
Following the sit-out, Brown came back and put a few games together that indicated he was trying to implement the changes Sandberg had advised. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Braves came into town and swept the Phillies over four games that showed how many holes there are in the team. In Saturday’s double-header, the Phils were trounced 10-3. Right-handed pitcher Sean O’Sullivan (3-6, 4.31 ERA in 15 starts) started in the second game which didn’t go well for the Phils who lost that one, 5-1. Now the team is in Florida to play the Marlins and then it’s on to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.
It may interest some baseball fans to learn that the Phillies have used more players than any team in baseball and have not yet fielded a consistent, winning combination this season. More changes are in the offing, probably a few trades. In 81 games, they have scored 310 runs, the lowest output since 1997 when they scored 286 in the first half of that season. The Phillies have placed a runner in scoring position with less than two out in three innings – the fourth, sixth and seventh. In the first game of the Braves weekend double-header, even when they got an early lead, aggravating mistakes conspired against them. Atlanta smacked three straight routine grounders at first baseman Ryan Howard in the fourth inning. One hopped between his legs. He charged another dribbler but could not glove the ball, and then fumbled it toward the mound. When he finally caught the third one and stepped on first base, mock cheers greeted him. In a huge understatement, Ryne Sandberg noted that Ryan’s mistakes “changed the whole game.” The Braves tied it and never looked back. They went on to dominate the Phils in the second game as well.
Two days after Carlos Ruiz was struck in the head by a curve ball, not even a fast ball, he was placed on the disabled list. He came to the ballpark on Saturday for a check-up and was sent home. Koyie Hill was called in from the Iron Pigs to step in for Ruiz on Saturday’s first game and rookie Cameron Rupp came in from Lehigh Valley for the second. Ruiz is, according to reports, recovering slowly.
Soccer v. Baseball
Is soccer making inroads on baseball? There has been much comment in the press lately, in light of the World Cup games, stating that soccer is on the upswing at baseball’s expense. Once writer said that baseball appears to have the same problem as the Republican Party: it’s gotten old. He could be right. In many quarters, it’s easier to find a soccer game to watch than it used to be and the game is played with few time-outs or commercial breaks. The same cannot be said of baseball which is often slow in its pace and, when on air, captive to advertising commitments. If you want to see a baseball game live, it’s a costly venture between the price of tickets, parking, food and souvenirs for one game. Attendance has suffered because of it. For now, the same is not true of soccer. It has dominated the sports world in Europe and now we are seeing the game rise in popularity in the United States. One thing is for sure: here in Philadelphia, it’s getting harder and harder to watch bad baseball being played night after night. The Phillies are now 18-27 at home. They’re on a ten-day road trip at this writing. Maybe their fortunes will improve out there. Time is getting short for a turn-around.
In the NFL, the Washington Redskins have signed Jerry Rice, Jr., son of the Hall of Fame wide receiver, as an undrafted free agent out of UNLV. Rice started his college career at UCLA before transferring to UNLV, where he caught 11 passes for 86 yards this past season. His only touchdown catch came in a bowl game. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Rice caught nine passes for 69 yards with UCLA. In college football, Penn State has named the members of a panel assigned to search for a successor to Athletic Director David Joyner, who plans to retire on August 1st. The A.D. at Penn State oversees 31 varsity sports and a department with a $115 million budget. Joyner was responsible for bringing Bill O’Brien in to take over the football coaching job from Joe Paterno after the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted. He also hired James Franklin from Vanderbilt to succeed O’Brien when he went to the Houston Texans last year. It seems to me that he’s earned his retirement.
Let’s not forget: the Eagles will report to training camp on July 25th.