CLEARWATER, Fla. — The World Baseball Classic was Phillippe Aumont's validation in 2009. The hulking Canadian faced six American All-Stars, including Jimmy Rollins, in succession and survived a scoreless inning.
"It was my first big step," Aumont said.
On March 3, Aumont will leave Phillies camp, where he is competing for a bullpen job, and fly to Arizona. He will pitch for Canada again, this time under different circumstances. It's time for Aumont to take the next step.
"If I can go there, throw strikes and have some good outings," Aumont said, "I think it can only put me in a good position when I come back."
Aumont, 24, departed last year in a great position. He made a fine impression in 18 late-season outings that displayed his raw, and mostly untapped, potential. He ascended to setup man in a depleted bullpen two games into his major-league career.
That success had bred an improved mindset.
"It got much more simple when I got up to Philadelphia," Aumont said. "I didn't try to overdo things. I got there. I wasn't trying to get there anymore. That took away some of the stress. I just had to pitch, get the guys out, and do my job. I was pretty happy."
Leaving camp could have its ramifications. The Phillies have three open bullpen spots and could be more inclined to think of the arms they see on a regular basis. Aumont does not expect to close for Canada, which also touts Brewers relievers John Axford and Jim Henderson.
Then again, if Aumont impresses on a bigger stage than Grapefruit League play, he could improve his standing. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Aumont's absence will have no negative effect.
"I think if I do well, it can only help me," Aumont said. "There is better competition there than in spring training. Most of the lineup is bigger guys. Even if it's Italy or Mexico, a lot of those guys are playing professional baseball. They're all competitive. When you pitch in spring training, sometimes you face the B lineup and it's guys who played A ball the year before."
Maybe it's another confrontation with Rollins in the WBC that helps secure Aumont's job.
"We talked about it," Aumont said. "He said he's going to take some hacks. We'll see."
IN THURSDAY'S INQUIRER
- Roy Halladay is not the first to stare down baseball mortality. He arrived with a plan. Will it work?
- Carlos Ruiz was emotional in his apology but did not say much else. Bob Brookover believes Ruiz's transgressions were entirely human.
- In the notebook, Mike Adams says he is on schedule.
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