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Staying healthy Gillies' main focus in AFL

Staying healthy Gillies' main focus in AFL

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Staying healthy Gillies' main focus in AFL
PHILADELPHIA -- Tyson Gillies is back on the field.

Hold your breath.

Gillies is one of the three prospects the Phillies received in the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle in December 2010, but because of hamstring and foot injuries has played in just 31 games the previous two seasons. That is why the Phillies sent Gillies to the Arizona Fall League, where he is playing with the Scottsdale Scorpions in an outfield that boasts Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, who are two of the top prospects in baseball.

Gillies is hitting .205 (8-for-39) with two doubles, one home run and four RBIs in 13 games.

"We're less concerned about the numbers as we are about his health," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's rusty at the plate. He hasn't played in a long time."

Phillies special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld recently filed an encouraging report on Gillies' performance.

"His speed, his outfield play are good," Amaro said. "It's just good for him to be playing. The fact that he looks healthy right now and he's running real well, that's certainly a plus. Certainly, this is a very big year for him coming up."

The Phillies still believe Gillies can be an everyday center fielder in the big leagues, although time will tell. He has lost a lot of developmental time.

"Obviously, missing two years hasn't helped him," Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said earlier this month. "It's been very disappointing."

Right-handers Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez also joined the Phillies in the Lee trade. Aumont went 2-5 with a 2.68 ERA in 43 appearances this season with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In 53 2/3 innings, he allowed 44 hits, 16 earned runs and 25 walks. He also struck out an impressive 78 batters, giving him 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Aumont came into camp last spring in better shape, cutting his mile time by a minute. But the biggest benefit was returning to the bullpen after the Phillies failed to make him a starter in 2010. His fastball is back in the 97-98 mph range, which complements his power curveball. He needs to improve on holding runners and being quicker to the plate as well as the consistency of his command.

"He's got two out pitches," Looper said. "He throws a split, too. But his fastball and curveball are his two best pitches. We've been happy with his progression."

Aumont could be a closer or setup man in the future, although Amaro made it clear recently he doesn't think anybody in the organization is immediately ready to replace Ryan Madson, if he signs elsewhere. But Looper said he thinks Aumont could be helping the Phillies before the end of the 2012 season.

Ramirez went 11-13 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 starts with Reading. There are some in the organization who think Ramirez has the highest ceiling of the three. He might end up in the bullpen because he also has a power arm, but the Phillies plan to start him again next season.

In 144 innings, he allowed 144 hits, 72 earned runs and 55 walks and struck out 89.

"What's hurting him is he hasn't developed that second pitch," Looper said. "He's got a slider. He's got a changeup. We've messed around with a split a little bit."

Looper said they will try to have Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee get involved with Ramirez in the spring.

"We're happy with him," Looper said. "He just hasn't moved as fast as we thought he would."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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