Aumont eliminating timetables, pressure

Aumont eliminating timetables, pressure

Aumont eliminating timetables, pressure
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Phillippe Aumont, as many in his position might do, used to make himself a timetable for when he wanted to be promoted in the Major Leagues. Last season, his second in the Phillies' farm system, the imposing 6-foot-7 right-handed reliever hoped to be called up when the big league roster expanded in September, if not sooner.

It only led to disappointment when Aumont was not one of the players told to pack his bags for Philadelphia last fall. Instead, he went home to Canada.

So when this season rolled around and he was assigned to return to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Aumont decided there would be no more timetables, no more unnecessary, added pressure. He would just pitch.

Though he still needs some seasoning, the Phillies are happy with Aumont's progress thus far in 2012. He is 1-0, has eight saves in nine opportunities and has surrendered nine runs in 18 innings. Since returning from a back injury on May 28, Aumont has allowed just three runs in nine innings and has 12 strikeouts to five walks.

"I'm just going to let it happen," Aumont said before a recent IronPigs game at Coca-Cola Park. "I'm not going to force myself and after my outing and just be like, 'All right, when am I getting called up? I just struck out four guys.' That's not what I do. I just go out there, do my business, I enjoy my teammates and have fun."

No one would blame Aumont for feeling some pressure. After all, not only was he the 11th overall pick in the 2007 Draft, but he was also one of the key pieces the Phillies received when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners in December 2009.

Aumont, 23, admitted that he put pressure on himself when he first entered the Phillies' system -- and it led to a rough 2010 season in Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading -- but he said he has since learned from it and matured. MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch ranks him fifth in the organization.

"He's throwing the ball very well," Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development, said by phone. "His efficiency, command, everything is really tightening up, and that's really what we want."

In Lehigh Valley's win on Friday, in which Aumont earned his eighth save, he showed signs of his high ceiling. After the opposing hitter reached base on an infield single to lead off the ninth inning, Aumont mixed in 95-to-96-mph fastballs and several 81-mph breaking balls to retire the side in dominant fashion, striking out two.

If Aumont commands his fastball, his curveball becomes ever more effective as his out pitch. If batters start to sit back on his curveball, he'll go right back to his overpowering fastball. He also throws a splitter that he will use if batters start to guess on his fastball.

Aumont has worked on his mechanics and being quicker to home plate with IronPigs pitching coach Rod Nichols.

"He's got two Major League pitches [in his fastball and curveball]," said Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg, a former MVP second baseman for the Cubs and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "For him, it's just consistency and having enough seasoning at this level to have a long string of success for his confidence and just to be able to repeat what he does on the mound each time he goes out."

Aumont, a member of the Phillies 40-man roster, still needs some work but his potential is evident every time he takes the mound.

Jordan said he's excited for Aumont and the progress he's making.

"He's one of the guys we're counting on," Jordan said. "He's truly got a chance to be a special guy at the back end of the bullpen. Everything's good. Everything's really positive."

But this season, Aumont said he hasn't and won't put the added pressure on himself.

"And whenever I'm in the clubhouse and Ryno comes in [and says], 'Phillippe I've got to talk to you in my office ... You're getting called up.' That's when I get called up," Aumont said. "I won't put any pressure on myself and [say] 'I've got to be there by a certain time.' Those are things I can't control."

Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.