"In college, I was more focused on throwing breaking balls and miss bats and here, we've been trying to work on early contact and trying to get deeper into games and using less pitches and I've been letting them put pitches into play on the ones that we want them to hit and not the ones that they want to hit," explained Stutes.
The Phillies have developed a philosophy of emphasizing that their pitchers just need to make their pitches and not worry about how they get hitters out. Ironically, while changing his philosophy to allow hitters to make contact, Stutes has developed his fastball to the point that he has become one of the better strikeout pitchers in the organization, striking out 84 hitters in 69.2 innings of work this season at Williamsport and Lakewood.
"Ever since I was drafted, the pitching coach in Williamsport [Bill Bliss] and the pitching coach here [Lakewood - Dave Lundquist] and Gorm [Phillies minor league pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller] have really been working with me on spotting the fastball on both sides of the plate," said Stutes. "I've always worked on my fastball command, but that's been the main focus ever since I've been drafted."
|Mike Stutes has pitched well at both Williamsport and Lakewood, pushing the 2008 11th round pick up the ladder quicker than the Phillies had imagined he might be able to move. (Photo: Patrick Teale for Philly Baseball News)|
Mechanics wise, the Phillies haven't done too much to change Stutes motion and have allowed him to keep the somewhat whirling motion that he has on the mound. The changes since coming to the Phillies have been more of tweaks, rather than wholesale changes. "I've worked on staying back a little bit, I rush out a little bit whenever I want to throw a better breaking pitch or get a little extra on my fastball, I rush my mechanics a little bit. So, I've been working on just staying back and I can stay more in control."
Most - including Stutes - believed that he would spend the entire season at Williamsport, but much to the delight of opposing hitters, the Phillies saw enough in Stutes to move him along early in hopes that he could potentially help the BlueClaws' playoff chances. Unfortunately, the addition of Stutes wasn't enough, but he's glad that he's at least gotten the chance to pitch at Lakewood this season. "I figured I was going to be in Williamsport this whole year, so I'm happy with where I am," reported Stutes.
For a guy taken in the 11th round of the draft, Stutes has shown more poise than the Phillies thought they would see out of him. He handled the jump from Williamsport to Lakewood with no problem and continues to work on spotting his fastball and developing a consistent change. BlueClaws pitching coach Dave Lundquist agreed that Stutes has been a pleasant surprise. "He's not as raw as a lot of pitchers that are at the point in their careers that he is. We've worked with him on a few things, but there isn't too much to do besides keep encouraging him and let him pitch," said Lundquist.
With a combined record of 7-2, 1.42 mark, Stutes could well start 2009 at Clearwater, but a short return to Lakewood won't be out of the question. It likely depends on the progress that they see in him when he comes to camp next year and how much more work they believe his fastball will need to have in order for him to be successful at High-A ball. For now though, Stutes will close out the season at Lakewood, looking to push himself as high as possible as quickly as possible.