"I definitely think there is a bit of a difference," Overbeck said. "It seems like everybody up here has played in the big leagues, so everybody is obviously better. I struggled at the beginning and I'm starting to get the hang of it, and now I have to keep it up."
Overbeck, DeFratus, and Aumont all left Reading with impressive statistics. Overbeck, 25, was hitting .275 with a league-leading 18 home runs and 46 RBIs when he left the hitter-friendly confines of Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium. DeFratus, 23, was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 10 saves at Reading. Aumont, 22, was 1-5 with a 2.35 ERA and four saves with Reading.
Their clean slate at Lehigh Valley quickly became soiled.
Overbeck batted .146 in his first 14 games at triple-A. DeFratus had a 7.36 ERA and allowed 11 hits in 71/3 innings after his first five games with the IronPigs. Aumont gave up nine hits and three runs in his first 42/3 innings before ending up on the disabled list for nearly a month with a tender elbow.
Now, things have started to tilt the other way.
"They've adjusted, and it took them some time to adjust," Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg said. "They had to get their feet wet and it took 10 days to two weeks just for them to get comfortable. Coming to this level is a step up. They're facing older players, and the adjustments are a wide range. A guy like Overbeck might be pitched a little differently."
That was actually the first thing Overbeck noticed.
"I don't think the pitchers make as many mistakes here as they do at double-A, especially when they're ahead in the count," Overbeck said. "They locate the ball a lot better. I don't know if it's the pitchers as much as the catchers, but they read your swings a lot better and recognize what you can and can't handle."
DeFratus said he had to come to terms with a wide variety of things after being promoted.
"It takes a little while to get comfortable with being here at all because of the new teammates," he said.
"There are some guys I have played with, but not like at Reading, where I was with those guys for three or four years. The other thing is slowing the game down. The game seems to happen a lot quicker here.
"These are all things I've gotten more comfortable with the last month or so. And now it's really just about trusting my God-given ability to get by. If I execute this pitch and my plan, then things are going to work out. There are times when you catch yourself trying to throw the ball through the backstop and, you know what, these guys can catch up to anything, so it doesn't really matter. That's something I picked up in the last two weeks or so. You just have to trust your ability."
After hitting .146 in his first 14 games, Overbeck recovered to bat .250 in his next 25. It's nothing new for Overbeck to initially struggle when he takes a step up. It happened at single-A Clearwater and Reading.
"I wish I knew why, so I could stop it," he said.
Overbeck has played primarily at first base for Lehigh Valley and Reading this season after playing third base at the University of Mississippi. He also played some left field at Reading and is viewed right now as a potential power-hitting utility player in the big leagues.
"I would love that," he said. "Obviously, it doesn't matter who you are, the more positions you can play the better."
Because Michael Schwimer, the top relief pitcher at Lehigh Valley, was not available for a couple of games, DeFratus recently got a chance to close two games and did so successfully.
"I like his confidence," Sandberg said. "He had that really from day one even as he went through the adjustment period. He gets the ball and gets on the rubber and goes at the hitter. His makeup for late innings is very good."
Aumont's progress was obviously derailed briefly by the elbow injury, but Sandberg said it was no big deal.
"He had some slight tenderness in his elbow," Sandberg said. "It was more of a thing where once he was warmed up for the game and he pitched he didn't have it. He felt it a little when he warmed up, so it was just a precautionary thing."
Sandberg had enough confidence in Aumont that he let him work as the closer in his first game back Wednesday night and the young righthander responded by retiring four straight batters, including two by strikeouts. He became the ninth IronPigs pitcher to register a save this season.
(AAA, 62-45, first place, International League North Division)
When rosters expand in early September, it will be interesting to see whom the Phillies promote as their third catcher. Earlier this season, when Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider spent time on the disabled list, the backup role fell to Dane Sardinha, who appeared in 15 games.
Sardinha also played in 13 games in 2010, so he is more familiar with the Phillies pitchers.
Veteran Erik Kratz, however, has earned the starting job for the IronPigs by performing well with his bat and behind the plate. The 31-year-old Telford, Pa., native went into Saturday hitting .290 with 10 doubles, 13 home runs, and 38 RBIs.
By contrast, Sardinha went into the weekend hitting .132 and did not have a single RBI in 68 at-bats.
(AA, 55-50, third place, Eastern League Eastern Division)
Michael Martinez is not the only Rule 5 draft selection who has had a positive impact in the Phillies organization this year. The Phils selected pitcher Justin Friend from Oakland in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft and have been pleased with the pick.
Friend, 25, made the Florida State League All-Star Game by going 2-3 with 26 saves for single-A Clearwater and is now the closer for the R-Phils. In his first 14 games, he was 0-1 with seven saves, a 1.29 ERA, and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. Going into the weekend, he had not allowed a run in 91/3 innings this month.
"He was at double-A [with Oakland] and pitched pretty good there," said Steve Noworyta, the Phillies' assistant director of minor-league operations. "We needed some depth and it was a good pick."
(High A, 57-47 overall, 18-17 in second half, tied for second place in the Florida State League North Division)
You will not find first baseman Darrin Ruf's name among the Phillies' top prospects, but you will find him back at first base now that Jonathan Singleton has been traded to Houston. Ruf, who turned 25 Thursday, is quietly having a sensational year.
The 2009 20th-round pick out of Creighton went into the weekend batting .309 with a league-high 33 doubles, 11 home runs, and 62 RBIs. Ruf has a career .301 average in three minor-league seasons.
Noworyta said outfielder Tyson Gillies was expected to return from an ankle injury at some point in August. Gillies has played only three games this season and only 31 games the last two seasons because of injuries.
(Low A, 51-50 overall, 18-16 second half, third place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division)
Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar said earlier this season that a long list of Lakewood players needed to earn the title of prospect. It appears as if catcher Cameron Rupp, a third-round pick out of the University of Texas last year, is doing exactly that.
After hitting .225 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs through the first two months of the season, Rupp went into Saturday batting .375 this month with eight doubles and 15 RBIs.
"Defensively, he's always done a nice job behind the plate," Noworyta said. "The one thing he couldn't do early on was hit, but now he's starting to come along and do that, too. Defense was his strength coming out of school."
(22-19, tied for fourth place, New York-Penn League Pinckney Division)
Pitcher Perci Garner, the Phillies' second-round pick last year, appeared in just two games and threw four innings for Williamsport a year ago. This year, he strained an oblique muscle in his first start with the Crosscutters and has not pitched since. Noworyta said that Garner, who played football and baseball at Ball State, is expected to pitch again in early August.
- Bob Brookover
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover
or @brookob on Twitter.