With seasoning, a new Aumont joins Phillies at spring training

Righthander Phillippe Aumont had an outstanding 2011 season with two Phillies farm clubs.
Righthander Phillippe Aumont had an outstanding 2011 season with two Phillies farm clubs. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 16, 2012

Two springs ago, Phillippe Aumont took the longest walk of shame a professional pitcher can take. Of the seven college kids he faced, three walked, one singled, and another bashed a three-run home run. This was an exhibition game against Florida State University, and because of that, Aumont's debut as a Phillie was never officially recorded.

That hardly made the walk down the left-field line from the dugout to the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field any less embarrassing. The few people in attendance booed, but Aumont recalls one fan he never saw. He was standing at the tiki bar in left, and waited until Aumont was within shouting distance.

"Phillippe!" the man yelled. "You're dog . . .! We want Cliff Lee back!"

Aumont can laugh about it. "OK, buddy, thanks," he says now. "I just got here, thank you."

But the highly touted righthander had no response then. How could he? The expectations and hype of being traded for Lee were unexpected, the 23-year-old said. And at the same time, he was asked to become a starting pitcher, a decision for which former farm director Chuck LaMar ultimately apologized.

That made Aumont's stellar 2011 season even more impressive. He enters this spring as perhaps the best young relief arm in an organization teeming with bullpen prospects.

Some observers see future closer in Aumont's repertoire, but with Jonathan Papelbon locked up for four years, Aumont is at least headed for middle relief in Philadelphia. He figures to reach the majors sometime in 2012.

"To be able to handle failure on a daily basis is a huge part of this game," Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "Sometimes you have a bad week. Sometimes you have a bad month. A bad year is even worse. To be able to have the mental toughness to fight through that and turn things around, it says a lot about him."

Aumont was dominant at double A and triple A in 2011, posting a 2.68 total ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. When the Phils acquired Aumont in the four-player Lee deal with Seattle, they asked him to alter his arm slot and work as a starter so he could develop more secondary pitches.

That yielded an ERA of 7.43 at Reading and a demotion to single-A Clearwater during the 2010 season. Phillies officials were most concerned that Aumont, a hulking 6-foot-7 Canadian, had become passive and overwhelmed on the mound.

He returned to the three-quarters release point from before, and found that his split-fingered change-up benefited, along with the power sinker and curveball. That sinker can touch the high 90s and has a better downward plane with the old arm slot.

His renewed confidence on the strength of his 2011 season is what provides hope. Aumont admitted to being uncomfortable with his new surroundings and teammates while tackling the litany of adjustments the Phillies requested.

"It takes me time to open up," Aumont said. "It's who I am."

He laughs at that person now.

"What's done is done," he said. "I did something wrong. I learned from it. Now I laugh about it. There's nothing I can do to go back and change it. Back then, it wasn't funny. I had a good season last year, and it makes up for it. Now I can be like, 'Look at that goofball from 2010.' "

Winning a spot on the 25-man roster this spring is Aumont's chief goal. But he has something else to take care of, too. He wants to meet Cliff Lee.

"I've never shook his hand," Aumont said. "In the spring, I'll go up to him and say, 'Yeah, I'm the guy you got traded for. I'm sorry I didn't have a good season in 2010 and live up to your expectations.' "

That soon could change.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.


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