When it came to being drafted, the third time was the charm for Michael Stutes. Originally drafted by the Dodgers out of high school in 2004, Stutes was again drafted by the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2007 Draft. Thinking he could still do better, Stutes gambled and returned for another season at Oregon State and wound up dropping two rounds and having the Phillies take him in the 11th round of the 2008 Draft.
Since drafting him, the Phillies have been happy with the performance that they've gotten from Stutes. Enough so that they skipped him over Clearwater in favor of a jump from Lakewood to Reading for last season, and he performed admirably, giving them an 8-8 record with a 4.26 ERA in 27 starts. From that performance though, they determined that while Stutes was pitching well, there was something missing and they decided to make one major change; switching Stutes from being a starter to working as a reliever. The move has potentially put Stutes on a faster track to the majors.
Stutes was just recently promoted from Double-A to Triple-A and made his first appearance with Lehigh Valley against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Stutes came on in relief of Brandon Duckworth with one out in the top of the eighth inning and Lehigh Valley holding a 4-1 lead over Scranton. After giving up a double to Reid Gorecki, Stutes came back to get the next two hitters, holding the IronPigs three-run lead. Manager Dave Huppert allowed Stutes to start the ninth and he again gave up a double to the first hitter that he faced before getting Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero on a weak fly ball to right field. With the left-handed hitting Colin Curtis coming up, Huppert elected to go to lefty Mike Zagurski, who got Curtis and P.J. Pilittere to record his first save of the season and give the 'Pigs three out of the four games against Scranton.
In his one full inning of work, Stutes gave up two hits - both doubles - no walks or strikeouts and no runs. He relied mainly on fastballs that were consistently around 96 miles per hour, with an occasional drop down to the 93 mph range. His breaking ball had good movement and velocity that dipped down to the upper-70s and had hitters off-stride. The key to the fastball was Stutes ability to throw it through different areas of the strike zone, but he did sometimes leave it in a hittable zone, which is when he got into trouble and gave up the doubles. For anyone familiar with Stutes, the 96 mile per hour fastball is higher than they've seen in the past.
"I do sort of let go a little more now that I'm in the bullpen," admitted Stutes after the outing. "I've got good control, even with the added velocity, and the movement is still there."
Stutes threw 25 pitches in his debut, 16 of them for strikes.
Catcher Paul Hoover came away from the outing feeling like Stutes did pretty well. "He had pretty good command, except for a couple of pitches that he left up and over the plate a little. But he got himself into a good rhythm and didn't let himself get rattled."
It will be interesting to watch Stutes over the rest of the season, pitching out of the Lehigh Valley bullpen, if he does stay at Triple-A. His numbers as a reliever at Reading were impressive and he didn't show any signs of struggling to make the transition from starting to pitching in relief. There is some thought that Stutes could eventually become a closer-type pitcher, especially if he is able to keep his ability to change speeds and location and right now, Lehigh Valley doesn't have a clear cut closer, at least until Scott Mathieson returns from his short stint with the Phillies.
Michael Stutes' career stats
|Career Minor League Stats||18||10||3.39||66||40||12||2||252.0||213||106||95||20||108||230||1.274|