For the Philadelphia Phillies, the resurgence of a former reliever, turned starter, couldn’t have come at a better time.
Phillippe Aumont. Maybe the name might ring a few bells.
Perhaps you will remember him as the on-and-off Phillies reliever of the past few years, the one who had a 6.13 ERA and walked 27 batters over a 39.2 inning span. Or perhaps you’ll remember him as one of the failures of the notorious and in retrospect, disastrous, Cliff Lee trade.
Both of those things would be accurate. Aumont has largely failed to live up to any level of expectation the Phillies may have had when making that fateful trade. He has struggled to keep his fastball down and his secondary pitches never quite graded out either. And Aumont had his chances, despite being yoyoed from Double A to Triple A to the majors and not always in that order.
Aumont began his minor league career splitting time as starter and reliever. He pitched in 15 games, starting eight of them and saving two others, in his first season back in 2008. To date, this was Aumont’s second best season of his career.
In 2009 however, Aumont’s role was strictly confined to coming out of the bullpen. He pitched in 44 games with a 3.88 ERA, struggling the most with the jump to Double-A. In 2010, he was traded to the Phillies, where the plan was to convert Aumont back to a starter. Aumont started a career best 21 games that year, but did so to mixed results. By 2011, he was back to being a reliever, a role that helped him break the major league club the following season in 2012.
Aumont failed to stick with the club and his most recent stint last year, in which he pitched just five innings and gave up 12 earned runs, left a sour taste in the organization’s mouth. This seemed like it would be the last straw. It seemed like it was time for the higher-ups to swallow their collective pride and finally admit what everyone else already knew, that being that the Lee trade brought back absolutely no value.
So when a spot opened up in the starting rotation of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs this year, a spot Aumont hadn’t since occupied since 2010 with Double-A Reading, the Canadian native as well as Lehigh Valley manager, Dave Brundage, had absolutely nothing to lose in giving Aumont the job. Thus far, he has taken that opportunity in stride.
Aumont has pitched in nine games this season, starting five of them. He has a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings, allowing just one HR, while striking out 32. His command is still shaky in that he has walked 16, but other than that, Aumont is pitching to the numbers that the Phillies have long since dreamed he could.
The right-handed pitcher has always had the potential and he is finally fulfilling it. At 6’7, 240 pounds, Aumont has an imposing frame and has seemingly found the dominant mound presence to go along with it. His fastball is hitting its mark right now, topping 94-96 MPH with consistency. His breaking ball is playing up as well, which is a welcome change for Aumont, who now has an arsenal of two quality, above-average major league pitches.
Do we dare to dream though? Can we really believe this is a comeback story for the ages and that Aumont could one day soon, be in the five-man rotation?
The answer should be yes.
With his back firmly against the wall, his career hanging by a mere thread, Aumont discovered himself. This season is not a fluke. It’s just the remarkable turnaround of someone who always knew starting in the majors was what he wanted to do.
“It’s been a roller coaster, as far as career path. But starting is something I wanted to do… I was excited to get it going… I was waiting for this. I was waiting for so long.”
Just like Aumont had nothing to lose by picking up the ball and giving starting a final chance, the Phillies have nothing to lose by letting him. When the time comes, and it will come, they’ll have nothing to lose either by giving Aumont an opportunity to be on the mound for a major league start.