ATLANTA – Left-hander Jesse Biddle was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right thigh bruise and right calf strain diagnosed after he endured yet another miserable outing Friday night in a loss to the Rockies.
But the Braves reliever’s most concerning current ailment is the fractured psyche that has developed as he has retired just 10 of his past 23 batters faced. He has issued seven unintentional walks, including two with the bases loaded, and has surrendered five hits within that span. In other words, more than half of the opposing batters have recorded a hit or drawn a walk against him over his last six appearances.
“There are a lot of things I need to work on, but the first thing I need to do is maintain confidence and know everything is going to work out,” Biddle said. “I’m working on some things. This has been really rough. I’m not going to lie. It’s definitely left me really frustrated and pretty confused. But it’s part of the deal, and I’m a professional. It’s part of my job to take the ball every time they call my name.”
When Biddle followed a pair of ugly appearances against the D-backs by completing two scoreless innings last weekend in Cleveland, the Braves were hopeful he had turned things around. But he walked each of the three batters he faced (one intentionally) Tuesday in a loss at Cincinnati and then surrendered three hits while facing four batters Friday in a loss to Colorado.
“I’ve had a lot of good outings,” said Biddle, who posted a 3.11 ERA over 60 appearances last year. “I’ve had some bad ones, and I’ve had some really, really bad ones that have been tough to swallow. I’m just trying to help the team, and I haven’t been doing it. That has been really frustrating. Cashing other people’s runs and giving up leads. It hurts, and it’s led to a lot of sleepless nights.”
Jonny Venters is a couple days away from returning from a stint on the injured list that started after he retired just seven of his first 18 batters faced. Grant Dayton, another lefty reliever, will make at least a few more appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett before being deemed ready to return from last year’s Tommy John surgery.
The scoreless appearances against the Indians delayed the need to make a move, but the fact Biddle was kept on the active roster beyond this week’s outing in Cincinnati was also influenced by the fact he’s out of options and thus could be lost via a waiver claim.
“[Young pitchers] don’t have a whole lot of experience for when things start going [wrong] that they can draw back on,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
This isn’t the first time Biddle has been forced to overcome adversity. The suburban Philadelphia native was selected by the hometown Phillies in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, but he did not reach the Majors until last year.
Biddle produced reverse splits through the first six weeks of his rookie season but then struck out each of the four left-handed hitters he faced while throwing three scoreless innings in a 14-inning loss to the Nationals on June 2. That included two strikeouts of Bryce Harper. The outing marked the start of a stretch in which Biddle produced a 1.93 ERA over 33 appearances.
“I’ve been in much tougher positions in this game,” Biddle said. “I think I have the tools to get myself out of this. I have a lot of positive support around me. The coaches have been amazing. They have consistently given me opportunities. I want to help this team win. You’re either doing your job, or you’re not doing your job. I haven’t been doing it lately.”