Aumont turning heads in fight for bullpen job

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Aumont turning heads in fight for bullpen job

TAMPA -- Unless something unforeseen occurs, the back end of the Phillies’ bullpen is set. Jonathan Papelbon is going to close and Mike Adams is going to set things up in the eighth.

But what about the seventh inning?

It seems that lefty Antonio Bastardo is first in line to pitch if Adams or Papelbon need a night off, which leaves a spot for a durable, big arm. Is this an opening for righthanded reliever Phillippe Aumont?

“He has to make the team first,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

Yes he does, but that could just be the pitching coach hoping to keep the young pitcher on his toes. But for the second time this spring during Friday’s 10-5 victory over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field (see story), Aumont threw a scoreless inning.

In this one, Aumont threw 11 of his 12 pitches for strikes and reached 95-mph on the radar gun. He allowed a hit and notched a strikeout and even turned a few heads of those who have a say in whether or not he’ll make the team when the Phillies head north in April.

One of those guys with final say, manager Charlie Manuel, believes Aumont is just beginning to scratch the surface.

“He has the size and his mechanics on the mound make it easy,” Manuel said about Aumont’s fastball velocity. “He has more there. Every once in a while I want to see him get mad and show how much he’s got. Seriously, there’s more in there.”

Aumont did quite well in some on-the-job training last September. In 18 appearances covering 14 2/3 innings, Aumont got 14 strikeouts and a serious education. On Sept. 9, he pitched in both ends of a double-header against the Rockies, which gave him three appearances in two days. Following a day off, Aumont was back on the mound for three straight days. He repeated the feat again later in the month by going in three straight games.

Aumont stood up to the heavy workload as the Phillies were making a late dash for the second wild-card spot.

“I think he has the chance to be really good. Pitching him down here, any time he gets out there is good experience for him,” Manuel said. “And when the season starts, it might take him a little while, but as the season goes along, I think he has a chance to be very special.”

With a berth on the Canadian team in this month’s World Baseball Classic, Aumont took the lessons he learned late last season and tried to build off them by beginning his spring throwing program three weeks early.

So far the 6-foot-7, 260-pound pitcher has stood up well to the advanced workload.

“I had a few under my belt before I showed up,” Aumont said. “Right away, I started working on command and all of that stuff. It wasn't just, ‘OK, I just need to get the arm going.’ I knew I needed to get it going. And, so far, so good.”

Friday’s game against the Yankees will be Aumont’s last for the Phillies for a while. On Saturday, Aumont heads off to join Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic where he hopes to use the experience to put him in position to win a job with the Phillies.

Yes, Aumont wants to win for Canada, but he’d prefer to win more for the Phillies.

“I'm still not trying to be ready right now,” Aumont said. “I'm just trying to take it gradually throughout the spring. I have to be ready for the tournament. It’s not the important stuff, but still you have pride when you get on the field for your country. The adrenaline will kick in. But my priority is to come back healthy and compete for a job.”

Tonight’s lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph sits in favor of Ryan Howard

Tonight’s lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph sits in favor of Ryan Howard

The Phillies’ bats stayed hot in the team’s 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks Monday night, which included a six-run seventh inning (see story). It was the fourth time in seven games that the Phillies have scored at least six runs.

With the offense showing encouraging signs of life on the current road trip, manager Pete Mackanin is sticking with catalysts Odubel Herrera and Peter Bourjos at the top of the lineup. The two combined for seven hits and four runs scored in Monday’s blowout win.

Following Herrera and Bourjos, Mackanin makes a few changes to tonight’s lineup.

Ryan Howard gets his first start since last Friday as the struggling Tommy Joseph, who went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts on Monday, takes a seat. With Joseph on the bench, Maikel Franco moves up to the three-hole and Howard hits cleanup.

Carlos Ruiz takes over behind the plate for Cameron Rupp, who went 1 for 4 with an RBI on Monday night. Ruiz has established himself as Jerad Eickhoff’s personal catcher.

With right-hander Zack Greinke on the mound for the Diamondbacks, Cody Asche gets the start in left field over Tyler Goeddel. Asche went 1 for 3 with an RBI double off the bench last night.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:

Phillies lineup
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Peter Bourjos, RF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Diamondbacks lineup
1. Jean Segura, 2B
2. Michael Bourn, CF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Jake Lamb, 3B
5. Yasmany Tomas, RF
6. Wellington Castillo, C
7. Peter O’Brien, LF
8. Zack Greinke, P
9. Nick Ahmed, SS

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Updated: 9:51 p.m.

Nick Williams, the Phillies' most advanced outfield prospect, has been on a roll lately, but Monday saw the end of his 11-game hitting streak and a premature end to his night.

Williams was removed again by IronPigs manager Dave Brundage after not running out a grounder back to the pitcher in the eighth inning of a 5-3 Lehigh Valley loss. It came less than two weeks after his previous punishment, a two-game benching for not running out a flyball that was dropped.

When asked about it after the game, Brundage told reporters including the Allentown Morning Call's Tom Housenick to ask Williams himself.

Williams told reporters he didn't have much to say.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon with Comcast SportsNet's Marshall Harris, Williams dismissed the notion that he doesn't play hard.

“There was a play earlier this year, I struck out on a ball in the dirt and I made it to second [base]," Williams said. "They can’t ever say I don’t play hard."

As for the latest incident, Williams admitted he was wrong, but ...

“That situation, I mean, it was just weird," Williams said. "I hit the ball, like bam, bam, in the pitcher’s glove. It’s just hard to say I see anybody running that ball. It just happened too fast.”

Williams' time at Triple A this season, his first with the IronPigs, has been rocky at times. Aside from the two benchings for lack of hustle, Williams also excessively celebrated a game-winning home run on May 3 and attempted a bunt with his team up eight runs early in a 16-1 Lehigh Valley win on June 11. The bunt was not received well by the Durham Bulls and it led to two ejections and some animosity between the teams.

This is Williams' first full season in the Phillies' minor-league system after coming over last summer from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. In 287 plate appearances with the IronPigs, he's hit .285/.329/.460 with 17 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 36 RBIs. He has 12 extra-base hits this month after totaling 14 in April and May combined.