Mike Stutes has been something of a forgotten man this offseason. Whenever you hear about a pitcher undergoing shoulder surgery, you tend to lower your expectations. But Stutes' feels just the opposite.
"I feel like I have a brand new shoulder," the 26-year-old righthander said this morning.
The surgery was not major and did not involve any significant structural alterations. The procedure is called a debridement. Essentially, doctors went in and cleaned up the joint, restoring a range of movement that had become limited.
Stutes said he did not realize how limited he was until after the surgery, which left only a small scar and allowed him to return to throwing in September.
He last pitched in a competitive situation on April 21 of last season, when he allowed three runs on three hits in one inning against the Padres, and then hit the disabled list with a shoulder injury that ended his season.
Stutes said his shoulder had been "clicking" as far back as the 2011 season, when he helped stabilize the Phillies bullpen during the summer before struggling down the stretch.
Now, not only is his velocity back to its normal level, he said he feels like he has a little extra juice on the pitch.
Stutes acknowledged that he might have some ground to recover in what figures to be a fierce competition for the bullpen. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, set-up man Mike Adams, righthander Chad Durbin and lefty Antonio Bastardo all seem like sure bets for the 'pen, barring injury. That leaves three spots -- and perhaps as few as two, depending on how many bench players the Phillies decide to keep -- for a host of young players to lock up. Righthanders Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont and lefties Jake Diekman and Jeremy Horst all spent time on the big league club last season and have the kind of stuff that could win them a spot. Righthanders Michael Schwimer and B.J. Rosenberg and lefties Joe Savery and Raul Valdes also spent time with the Phillies last year.
But Stutes has more major league experience than most of them, having gone 6-2 with a 3.63 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 in 62 innings in 2011. And he feels like he is in even better shape now. One of the many storylines to watch as spring training progresses.