Phils release Cook and have no clear-cut sixth starter

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. --The Phillies released Aaron Cook Tuesday after general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the veteran pitcher's situation with his agent Joe Bick.

“We had to decide whether to release him, whether to pay him (a) $100,000 retention bonus or promise that we would add him to the roster before opening day,” assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. “We decided to release him based upon a lot of conversation … between Ruben and Aaron and his agent. We decided that was the best thing to do.”

Cook, 34, is 76-79 with a 4.60 ERA in parts of 11 big-league seasons, including the first 10 with Colorado. He signed with the Phillies as a minor-league free agent in mid-January and made a solid showing in six Grapefruit League games, posting a 3.86 ERA in 18 2/3 innings.

The Phillies did not close the door on re-signing Cook should he be unable to find a big-league job. One possibility is the New York Mets, who have lost projected starters Shaun Marcum and Johan Santana to injuries in recent days.

“I don’t think we’ve closed any doors and I don’t think he did either,” Proefrock said.

At the start of spring training, the Phillies had Cook and Rodrigo Lopez in camp as minor-league free agents who had significant big-league experience as starters. Lopez, however, was also released earlier this month, leaving the Phillies with a cast of young starters waiting in reserve should they be needed at the big-league level.

The list of candidates to come to the big leagues should one of the Phillies’ top five starters go down with an injury includes Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Adam Morgan, all of whom are expected to open the season at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

“I think we feel pretty good about the depth we have,” Proefrock said. “Is it experienced? Probably not as experienced as you’d like, but they’ve got to get experience somehow.”

Award winners

The Phillies presented awards to minor-leaguers Jesse Biddle and Edgar Duran before Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Biddle, the team's 2010 first-round pick from Germantown Friends School, received the Bill Giles Award and Duran, a 22-year-old shortstop from Venezuela, received the Larry Rojas Award. Both awards are given to players based on their love and respect for the game of baseball as well as their work ethic and pride in being a member of the Phillies.

Manny Amador, the coordinator for the Phillies' summer league in the Dominican Republic, received the John Vukovich Award.