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Aumont leaves mark as he heads for Classic

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Right-handed reliever Phillippe Aumont isn't worried about being at the top of his game when he pitches for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic -- the rush of representing his country will take care of that. But he also knows that he can't afford to wait until Opening Day to round into shape.

Aumont's real concern is the last week of March. As he put it, "That could be decision time." And for a player angling for a bullpen job like Aumont, that's the most important time to prove yourself.

"If I'm ready, if I'm doing good, then I've got the odds on my side," Aumont said.

So far, so good. Aumont threw another scoreless inning Friday against the Yankees, his second shutout Grapefruit League appearance.

"I'm getting there. It's still camp. I'm still not trying to be ready right now, but just trying to take it gradually throughout the spring," Aumont said. "I've got to be ready for the tournament. It's not the important stuff, but it's still the pride when you get on the field for your country and everything, the adrenaline will kick in. My priority's to come back healthy, be able to come in and get a job."

Aumont won't be around to pitch for Philadelphia the next few weeks, as he'll join the Canadian team in Arizona for workouts and exhibition games before the Classic begins. But he left a strong impression on the Phillies with the work he's done in camp and in two strong outings.

"He's got a chance to be really good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Might take him just a little while, but he'll improve as the season goes on. I think he's got a chance to be really special. ... When he's throwing strikes like he did today, that means he can use his split and stuff like that, yeah. Pretty good. He's very talented."

Aumont looked back Friday on how far he's come since last year. His confidence swelled when he made his Major League debut in August, and it only grew from there as he found some success against big league hitters. Since then, he's found a routine he could stick with, and he got an early start by throwing bullpen sessions three weeks before camp began this year.

Aumont thinks that's helped him pitch well so far this spring. But Manuel believes Aumont can develop even further, becoming a hard-throwing workhorse out of the bullpen.

"Every now and then, I want to see him get mad and see how much he's got," Manuel said. "Seriously. There's more in there."

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