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Sutera gets opportunity thanks to impressing in Cape Cod

Tom Sutera’s spot in the Cape Cod League last summer wasn’t guaranteed. He was on only a temporary contract, filling in for a player who was still participating in the College World Series or working out a potential pro contract.

But Sutera, who had been bypassed in the Major League Baseball draft earlier in the month, made the most of his opportunity in the Cape, the country’s most famous summer college baseball league. He pitched well enough to impress his coaches in Harwich. He even pitched well enough to be named to the Cape Cod League All-Star team. But he never got the chance to pitch in that game.

After what would turn out to be his final start for the Mariners, Sutera was approached by a pair of Philadelphia Phillies scouts who had been tracking the Siena senior. The scouts had been following Sutera’s progress, and out of the blue offered him a chance to sign as a free agent with the Phillies.

The next couple days for Sutera were a whirlwind. He had to fill out a questionnaire about his medical history for the team. He spoke on the phone with his coaches at Siena and family members. Ultimately, Sutera chose to skip his senior season in college in favor of signing with the Phillies.

The 6-foot-5 right-hander made his debut for the Williamsport Crosscutters on Saturday night, pitching in State College as the back end of a piggyback situation with starter Carlos Francisco.

“It really came out of nowhere,” Sutera said last week at Crosscutters media day. “At the time I didn’t think I’d get drafted because I hadn’t talked to many scouts. I thought the time had passed for free agent signings, but I was really excited and it caught me by shock. But it was a great opportunity.”

Even though Sutera wasn’t able to pitch in the CCL All-Star Game, he was able to attend the event before reporting to Clearwater last summer. After reporting to the GCL Phillies West, he pitched 6 2/3 innings over five appearances.

Just like he did in the Cape last summer, Sutera is hoping to make the most of this unexpected opportunity. He thought he eventually could have been drafted after his senior season, but he’s had a jump-start on his professional career.

Sutera is making the switch to being a starter this year, which is something he had wanted to do his entire career at Siena. Of his 46 career collegiate appearances, only two were as a starter, and those came his freshman season.

His work as a starter will be in the piggyback role with the Crosscutters, but it’s a role he’s looking forward to taking on. Toward the end of his college career, Sutera ended up working more in a long relief role which would see him come in during the early and middle innings and finish the game.

“I targeted him as a starter because I saw some good things. I saw nice arm action,” Cutters pitcher coach Hector Berrios said. “I saw he was getting a little bit in front, and I saw his concentration wasn’t where it needed to be. So putting him through the process and making him understand he has a lot of good qualities and using his lower half more means there’s still more in that tank. I firmly believe he’s a guy who still has room to grow with the fastball because he’s a guy who can really attack the strikezone with four pitches.”

The opportunity to compete in the Cape was the measuring stick Sutera needed to know he could play on the highest level. In 27 innings in the Cape last summer he posted a 3.25 ERA. It’s what lets him believe despite going undrafted he’s capable of pitching well at a professional level. All that’s left now is to prove it.

“Being in the Cap full time was incredible,” Sutera said. “You see these guys who are playing in the College World Series or in regionals and all of a sudden you’re pitching against them and getting them out? Ultimately, that helps your own confidence.”

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