Stu - Stu - Stutes-io

Mike Stutes has pitched well enough to make the first round of cuts. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Mike Stutes has impressed the Phillies coaching staff this spring. To the point where they have decided to keep him around for a longer look, despite sending most of the rest of his peer group back to the minor leagues. Justin De Fratus, Matthew Rizzotti, Cesar Hernandez, Harold Garcia -- all are on the 40-man roster, and all were optioned back to minor league camp.

Stutes isn't even on the 40-man roster yet. But Charlie Manuel shrugged off that fact yesterday when asked about the 24-year-old righthander. He then proceeded to tell a story about a recent game in Fort Myers against the Red Sox, when an umpire pulled Manuel aside and raved about the late movement and life on Stutes' pitches.

First, though, some background. . .

Stutes was a member of the Oregon State teams that won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he went 8-2 with a 3.10 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 17 games, 14 starts, 81 innings.

In 2007, he went 12-4 with a 4.07 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 22 starts, 132 innings. After his senior season in 2008 (4-7, 5.32 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9), the Phillies selected him in the 11th round of the draft.

Stuttes started 27 games at Double-A Reading in 2009, going 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, 6.7 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. But the Phillies thought he projected more as a reliever, and in 2010 he thrived in that role, going 3-0 with a 3.79 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 in 76 1/3 innings over 53 appearances.

Now, back to this spring. Stutes throws in the low-to-mid-90's. The only time I saw him pitch last season, at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the scoreboard gun was showing 93-95 consistently. That might be a little high, but his fastball has an explosive quality to it. Batters don't seem to get very good swings on it. At least they haven't this spring. His slider has also looked pretty good.

Here is a break down of how he has fared against the 21 batters he has faced this spring. Ten of them have significant major league experience. The other 11 are minor leaguers.

Major Leaguers
RHB Rajai Davis - Flied out to center field
RHB Yunel Escobar - Flied out to right field
RHB Juan Rivera - Ground ball single to center field
RHB J.P. Arencibia - Struck out looking with runners on first and second to end inning
LHB David Ortiz - Grounded out to the pitcher
RHB Darnell McDonald - Struck out swinging
LHB Robinson Cano - Grounded out to second base
SHB Nick Swisher - Flied out to center field
LHB Curtis Granderson - Popped out to short stop
RHB Danny Worth - Struck out swinging

Non-Major Leaguers (with '10 OPS)
RHB Darin Mastroianni (.788 at Double-A in '10) - Struck out swinging
LHB David Cooper (.769 at Double-A) - Line drive single to right field
SHB John Tolisano (.741 at High-A) - Line-out to short stop
SHB Michael McDade (.763 at High-A) - Struck out swinging
RHB Yomaico Navarro (.793 at AA/AAA) - Popped out to catcher in foul territory
LHB Josh Reddick (.767 at Triple-A) - Popped out to third base in foul territory
RHB Ryan Lavarnway (.882 at A+/AA) - Struck out looking
SHB Drew Sutton (.766 at Triple-A) - Flied out to center field
RHB Audy Ciriaco (.675 at AA/AAA) - Struck out looking
RHB Bryan Holaday (.662 at High-A) - Home run to left field
RHB Argenis Diaz (.586 at Triple-A) - Struck out swinging

vs. MLB: 1/10, 3 SO, 3 FB, 3 GB, 1 IF/FB
vs. MiLB: 2/11, 5 SO, 4 FB, 0 GB, 2 IF/FB
vs. ALL: 3/21, 8 SO, 7 FB, 3 GB, 3 IF/FB

Stutes is still a long shot for the Opening Day roster. There wouldn't seem to be much point in keeping him around for an uncertain role at the expense of regular work in the minors. But he's certainly a guy to keep an eye on for later in this season. And with only one reliever under contract for next season (Jose Contreras), you can bet Stutes will be a part of the Phillies plans for 2012, assuming he stays healthy and continues to perform.

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