By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Michael Stutes was a revelation for the Phillies back in 2011. As a rookie, the right-hander quickly became a key piece in Charlie Manuel’s bullpen, appearing in 57 games and compiling a 3.63 ERA.
The hope was that the Phillies would be able to lean on him again in 2012. But the Oregon State product never really got started last season. He says he started to feel odd sensations in his shoulder and arm during spring training, and after throwing just 6 2/3 innings during the regular season, he had to undergo surgery.
“They went in and just cleaned up, I had a little bit of fraying, which is completely normal for anyone that’s been pitching this long,” Stutes tells KYW Newsradio. “Had a small little bone chip of, I guess it was like a little cartilage that covers your arm bone, and a little piece of that had chipped off and was hitting against different nerves and stuff. So it was sending different sensations, whether it was an electric-feel through my arm, or a dead-arm feel. It was kind of a different feeling every pitch, so it was tough to explain, it was tough to diagnose. I’m just glad I got it figured out and it’s behind me.”
The surgery was just the first step on the road back. What followed was the long, but necessary, process of rehabbing.
“It was the same thing everyday,” Stutes says. “Building arm strength back up. Building all the shoulder mobility back up after not throwing for awhile. It was a long road back, but I’m back now and trying to stay as long as I can.”
Now 26, Stutes didn’t make the Phillies roster out of spring training, instead he started the season with AAA Lehigh Valley. After pitching well in 20 appearances with the Iron Pigs, he got the call back to Philadelphia and in 6 games since his call-up, he has gone 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 innings.
“Now I feel like I’m back to where I was in 2011, maybe even a little stronger,” Stutes says.
And what did he learn on his year-long journey back to the bigs?
“You just learn how much you enjoy being out there every day,” Stutes says. “In Major League stadiums, facing Major League hitters. When you do it every day, it’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Alright, it’s my job.’ I go out there and do it everyday and it becomes your routine. Where when you don’t do it everyday, and you come back and you do it once, you’re like, ‘Wow, that was pretty cool.’ So I learned that I really enjoy being out there and facing those kind of hitters.”
Stutes and the Phillies open a ten-game road trip in Milwaukee on Thursday night.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.