Aumont Gets Back On Track

Righty looked to another Phillie for motivation





PHILADELPHIA—Roy Halladay often talks about how getting his head in a good place helped unlock his pitching prowess. Phillippe Aumont can identify with that.

Aumont, acquired from the Mariners in the much-publicized Cliff Lee trade of December 2009, let the pressure of being the centerpiece of a big deal get to him in 2010, which  started poorly and never got on track. Last offseason, the righthander found himself at a crossroads. Dr. Jack Curtis, a mental skills coach who works with Phillies minor leaguers, pointed him in the right direction and Aumont's prospect status regained its luster in 2011.

"Dr. Jack helped me tremendously," Aumont said. "Without a doubt working with him made the most difference. He taught me to see the positive in everything, to leave the negative behind and visualize myself having success. Before I worked with Dr. Jack, I'd think, 'I can't walk this guy.' Now, I think, 'I'm going to get this guy out.' Everything was negative in 2010. Now, everything is positive."

Halladay had a similar guru of the mind early in his career when he became dedicated to the teachings of the late Harvey Dorfman.

Aumont was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and the Mariners envisioned the hard-throwing, 6-foot-7 Canadian as a closer. Trying to build his innings and broaden his pitch repertoire, the Phils moved Aumont to starter in 2010. It was a disaster. Last season, Aumont returned to the bullpen and posted a 2.68 ERA in 43 games at Double-A and Triple-A. He had a 78-25 strikeout-walk ratio and allowed just 44 hits in 54 innings.

"The bullpen is where I want to be," Aumont said. "It's what suits me. I feel more comfortable. I'm able to be aggressive. As a starter you need to be more relaxed."

Aumont's intimidating physical presence, coupled with a fastball that touches the high 90s and a splitter that has become an out pitch, has Phillies officials thinking he could one day be a closer in the majors. He and Justin De Fratus will get reps in that role at Triple-A to start the season and both could be candidates to help in Philadelphia's bullpen before long.

Aumont, 23, said he dreams about getting his shot in Philadelphia every day.

"My goal for this season is to make the big leagues and also stay there," he said. "I want to keep getting better and make sure when I get there I'm ready."

PHIL-UPS

• The Phillies hosted held their annual prospect education program in mid-January. Bernie Parent, the legendary Flyers goalie, gave tips about succeeding in Philadelphia.

• The Phils signed veteran righthander Joel Pineiro to a minor league contract and invited him to big league camp.