'Confused' Aumont struggling to throw quality strikes

'Confused' Aumont struggling to throw quality strikes

June 3, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Phillippe Aumont has been optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley for the second time this season. (AP)

It’s been a rough few weeks for Phillippe Aumont.

In his nine appearances with the Phillies leading up to his demotion to Triple A in late May, Aumont had an 8.10 ERA and put 19 men on base in 6 2/3 innings.

Things have only gotten worse at Lehigh Valley, where Aumont has 10 walks and seven wild pitches and has recorded just 11 outs. His ERA with the Iron Pigs is 9.82.

The main issue is control. Aumont just cannot throw strikes consistently. A lot of it has to do with his inability to repeat his delivery. And he’s getting pitching advice from as many angles as he unintentionally releases the ball from.

“It’s very, very confusing,” Aumont told The Express-Times this past weekend. “Baseball is a very confusing thing because you have so many people who have so many different perspectives on how to do things. At the major-league level, (bullpen coach) Rod [Nichols] is telling me something, then I come down here and can hear different stuff."

“Which way do I go? Do I want to please the people while I’m down here right now or do I do the things the big league wants me to do even if I’m not doing the stuff they want me to do here?”

The mechanical suggestions coming at Aumont may differ but the reality is he needs to correct this issue soon before things spiral out of control. Even with the walks, Aumont has shown he’s capable of working out of jams. He has the blazing fastball and sharp curveball to do it. He had a 2.68 ERA at the two highest minor-league levels in 2011 and pitched brilliantly in his first nine major-league outings in 2012.

“My last couple of outings my main focus was not to walk anybody -- that’s always been an issue for me -- and I thought I did a good job not walking anybody,” Aumont told the Express-Times about the period leading up to his demotion. “I guess for [the Phillies] it was the fact that I was getting hit and gave up a couple of runs and they didn’t have room for me to pitch up there."

That was the strange part. In his last three outings with the Phils Aumont didn’t walk a batter, but he did allow six hits and three runs. There is a difference between strikes and quality strikes, and the Phillies simply didn’t have the time or roster space to let him figure out that difference at the major-league level.

It’s a balance Aumont needs to find on his own if he hopes to live up to the expectations of being a first-round pick and the centerpiece of a trade for Cliff Lee.

“We don’t always make the best decisions, nobody does, but I have to find a medium of where I can get to where I want to be and at the same time, try to do some of the things they want me to do,” Aumont said.

“The walks and everything frustrate me, but at the same time, it’s always going to be a part of me if I’m going to be a power pitcher. I’m not a finesse guy who is going to make you always put the ball on the ground or whatever. 

“I want to make you go down hard. I’m going to break your bat or make you swing at a pitch in the dirt. I’m going to strike you out and that’s the way I have to think and that’s the way I want to think.”

He’s still young enough to figure things out on his own. Aumont is just 24 years old, younger than every player on the 40-man roster who has reached the majors with the Phillies except Freddy Galvis, Jonathan Pettibone and Cesar Hernandez.

Aumont is not the first young flamethrower to encounter control issues and he won’t be the last. His situation is just more unique because the Phillies gave up a great chance to reach a third straight World Series in 2010 to acquire him, and more urgent because middle relief has been the glaring weakness of this team through 57 games.