On the Pharm: Michael Stutes working his way back to Phillies

On the Pharm: Michael Stutes working his way back to Phillies

May 20, 2013, 10:00 am
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It’s rare, but sometimes a ball club can have a flaw on the roster that can be fixed from within. A demotion here and promotion there can solve things.
 
For a change, the Phillies may have a way to remedy a problem with a promotion from Triple A.
 
Headed into Sunday’s game, the Phillies were 12th in the National League in relief ERA with a lusty 4.55. Take closer Jonathan Papelbon and set-up ace Mike Adams out of the mix and the reliever ERA jumps to 5.63.
 
The biggest culprits have been Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. The trio has allowed a run in 19 of 41 combined games this season. Six times this season, Durbin, Horst and Valdes appeared in the same game, and the results haven’t been pretty.
 
In those six games the trio has allowed 23 earned runs in 28 1/3 innings. That’s a 7.31 ERA.
 
Perhaps the first shoe dropped this week when Valdes was demoted in favor of right-hander B.J. Rosenberg. But in just one game with the club, Rosenberg gave up three runs on four hits and a walk.
 
Meanwhile, at Triple A Lehigh Valley, right-hander Michael Stutes is on a roll. Battling back after he spent most of 2012 recovering from surgery, the 26-year old is quickly finding the form he showed when he cracked the big-league roster in 2011.
 
In his last 10 games, Stutes has allowed just three runs. Better yet, he has allowed only 10 hits and three walks during that span, which covers 15 1/3 innings. On Friday, Stutes got the last five outs for the save in an 8-7 victory over Norfolk.
 
“He's doing a lot of things well right now,” Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage said. “He’s commanding his fastball and is throwing his slider to the right spots. He’s got sneaky stuff. It’s not overpowering, but he has the good breaking ball and is commanding his fastball.”
 
Still, because Stutes missed all of 2012, the Phillies’ brass wants him to regain his strength before he returns to the majors. Based off how well Stutes is pitching and the Phillies’ needs in middle relief, the righty might start to look a lot stronger very quickly.
 
Simon developing his repertoire
While Stutes is putting it back together in Triple A, reliever Kyle Simon is developing a slate of pitches for Double-A Reading.
 
Acquired in the trade that sent Jim Thome to the Orioles last July, Simon was quickly converted to a reliever and promptly turned some heads when he joined the organization. In seven games for Single A Clearwater, Simon gave up two runs in 14 1/3 innings. When the 22-year-old arrived in Reading, he got into 13 games, posting a 1.42 ERA in 25 2/3 innings.
 
This season, Simon has been put into more late-game situations and has notched five saves in 14 games. That said, his 4.82 ERA and sagging strikeout-to-walk ratio is slightly troublesome.
 
Reading manager Dusty Wathan puts some of Simon’s trouble on the slider he’s developing.
 
“The slider is still a work in progress,” Wathan said. “We force him to throw it. He’s going to have to end up throwing it. If we lose a game because of it, so be it. If we get to watch him in a couple years strike guys out in Philadelphia with that slider, then it'll all be worth it.”
 
Wathan said this after Simon blew a save chance for Jesse Biddle on May 9 because of the slider. Staked with a one-run lead, Simon was working on a four-out save when he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch.
 
Guess what pitch it was.
 
Chalk it up to development, Wathan said.
 
“Not many guys can get away with one pitch in the big leagues,” Wathan said. “He’s going to need another pitch. With all the movement he has going into righties with his fastball, he needs something going away from righties.”
 
In the meantime, the 6-foot-6 pitcher from the University of Arizona has been using his stamina as a starter in his new role as a reliever. So far Simon has two five-out saves and two six-out saves. He also as notched at least four outs in seven of his 14 appearances.
 
When he figures out that slider, Simon could be the innings-eater out of the ‘pen the Phillies are looking for.