Competition for final Phillies bullpen spot sputters

Mike Stutes enters the final week of camp as one of six pitchers competing for the final three spots in the bullpen. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Mike Stutes has walked four batters in his previous two Grapefruit League innings. The 26-year-old righthander has failed to emerge in a competition with Phillippe Aumont for the final Phillies bullpen spot. Rich Dubee was plenty aware of this fact Sunday, but added his own.

"Aumont has had trouble finding the strike zone, too," Dubee said.

The Phillies have time to make a decision and Dubee, the pitching coach, does not plan on crowning a winner until the last possible moment.

Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin and Jeremy Horst are assured of spots. The long man will either be Raul Valdes or Aaron Cook. On Tuesday, the Phillies must add Cook to the 40-man roster or pay him a $100,000 retention bonus to go to triple A. Cook can decline that assignment, too. If necessary, Valdes can be optioned to the minors.

Neither Stutes nor Aumont have commandeered the other job. Dubee has said spring results will matter most in the final two weeks of exhibition games.

Aumont was sharper in Monday's 13-4 loss to Toronto. He pitched a scoreless seventh inning and was routinely ahead of hitters.

"I felt more confident," Aumont said.

Aumont stumbled in his three previous outings since returning from the World Baseball Classic. He walked three and struck out three in 3 1/3 innings. His command wavered when the stakes were higher in WBC play.

Earlier, Stutes had posted four consecutive scoreless outings with seven strikeouts in five innings. Then he allowed a home run to Atlanta, walked three and permitted five runs to score vs. Boston and struggled with control again Sunday against Boston.

"We just let them compete and see what happens," Dubee said. "What's interesting is the closer you get, sometimes guys tighten up or whatever. They know what's at stake. It's just like a regular game. Somehow we've got to get both of them to be more relaxed and allow their stuff to work."

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