Rich Dubee posted the newest pitching schedule today, which essentially declared that the competition for the final few spots in the bullpen is on. Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will all me making their next starts in minor league games, freeing up the competing relievers to face major league regulars early in Grapefruit League games.
One of the leading candidates for one of the final three spots in the bullpen is righthander Phillippe Aumont, who returned to camp today after participating in Canada's intense showing in the World Baseball Classic. Aumont had a central role in a dramatic elimination game against the United States, getting Ryan Braun to groundout with the tying run on third to finish a scoreless seventh inning and protect a 3-2 lead.
"I threw that seventh inning and I came in (to the dugout) and I was still shaking," Aumont said.
The United States ultimately came back to win, but the experience was a good one for Aumont, who spent September with the Phillies last season and probably has a slight edge on fellow righthanders Mike Stutes and Justin De Fratus for one of the final spots in the bullpen. Aumont and lefty Jake Diekman are scheduled to face the Pirates on Thursday, while De Fratus will face the Yankees on Wednesday and the Rays on Friday. Today, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon are pitching in a minor league game in order to give the players who have to prove themselves a chance to do it against major league competition. Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes and Jake Diekman will follow Roy Halladay against the Tigers here at Bright House Field. Stutes is scheduled for Wednesday at New York, Saturday at New York, and Monday at Atlanta.
"To me, they are still my friends, they are still my boys," Aumont said. "I'm just going to go out there and do my thing. Whatever happens with them, good for them. If I don't perform well, they deserve it more than I do. If I do well, obviously I want to be a part of it. I'm not going to compare myself to the others because that's when you start to get in trouble. I'm going to do my own thing and obviously cheer for them. Even though there are 10 more guys and there are only seven spots, I'm still going to cheer for everybody. The goal is to win a championship. Whatever it takes."
Of course, Aumont probably won't have the same amount of pressure as he faced against the United States.
"The game against the U.S., I still had the adrenaline, but it was more controlled," Aumont said. "But then you come back and it's back to routine, and it's like, what do I do with myself?"