Really, the only way to categorize Phillippe Aumont's first season in the Phillies' system is that it was a lost year. He was the highest rated prospect that came from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade last off-season and the tall Canadian righthander had trouble dealing with the pressure that came with that label.
At the same time, he was also handed the task of shifting from the bullpen -- where he had spent all of 2009 -- to becoming a starter. The Phillies wanted to stretch Aumont out so he could work on his secondary pitches. They also had Aumont change his arm slot.
So the 21-year-old had a lot on his plate. He probably started a level too high and his 11 games for double-A Reading were simply disastrous. In June, the Phillies demoted him to single-A Clearwater, admitting their mistake of pushing Aumont too far.
Now, they will attempt to correct another one.
Aumont will be a reliever again in 2011, Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar said.
"That's where he's comfortable," LaMar said. "We wanted to start him last year and we did. His results weren't very good. But we put him in that position. I felt bad sometimes for the kid. He wants to relieve. He feels comfortable relieving. That's what he did in Seattle."
The Mariners had Aumont change his arm slot before the 2009 season to go more over-the-top, so his fastball would play bigger as a reliever. This past spring, the Phillies told Aumont to go back to his three-quarters arm slot, which he used as an amateur.
They also had Aumont rely more on his sinker than that four-seam fastball. Seattle, thinking Aumont was better suited as a power reliever, had it the other way around.
So it'll be interesting to see what changes Aumont keeps.
All three of the prospects exchanged for Lee were in big-league camp last spring. But this year, it'll just be J.C. Ramirez, who is on the 40-man roster. Both Aumont and Tyson Gillies will be in minor-league camp.
That wasn't done for any specific reason, LaMar said. Aumont and Gillies were around last spring because they were new to the organization and the Phillies wanted their major-league staff to have a look.
The Phillies and Braves will play in baseball's annual Civil Rights Game on May 15 at Turner Field. Both teams will wear throwback jerseys from the Negro Leagues and many events are planned.
Working on a Sunday story that will detail the competition the Phillies are planning for their younger pitchers to fill out the bullpen this spring. After the quest for a rightfielder, this figures to be the most intriguing storyline this spring.
Just 31 days until pitchers and catchers report.
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