Designating Aumont was the right move

Philadelphia Phillies prospect Phillipe Aumont is heading down to the farm to work on control issues. (Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRE)

The Philadelphia Phillies sent four pitchers down to minor-league camp, including Michael Schwimer, Phillippe Aumont and lefties David Purcey and Jeremy Horst.

Schwimer, who made his MLB debut in September, will no doubt be the set-up man in Lehigh Valley, setting the table for power-pitcher Aumont. Horst, acquired for utility man Wilson Valdez, is a valuable left-hander at age 26, and as his stuff improves, he may have a shot at a September call-up as a situational guy.

Coming into this spring, there was a vocal group of Aumont supporters, believing he should get the coveted seventh bullpen spot. With his designation, there will surely be some uproar, if only by talk radio hosts and the uninformed, that he’ll be closing in Lehigh to start the year. In reality, this is the best place for Aumont to be.

It’s no secret that the 6′-7″ Aumont throws hard. His fastball consistently hits 97 mph, and he was even clocked as high as 99 mph on TV radar during a spring appearance. The problem, though, is Aumont doesn’t have major-league control to match his velocity. Acquired in the Cliff Lee (to Seattle) trade, he has spent two years within the Phillies organization, including a 2011 season in which he had a 5.6BB/9 at triple-A Lehigh Valley. In four appearances this spring, he walked four, gave up six hits and surrendered four runs (two earned). Both manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee speak highly about the big man, but admit his control and command is lacking.

“[Aumont is] erratic. Slow delivery to the plate. He’s inconsistent. He has a great arm. Great stuff. But we have a little work to do there. He has to be more consistent with his fastball and his secondary stuff. He has to be quicker to the plate. Too much of a chance to be a track meet against him,” said Dubee (via David Hale).

So why not just give Aumont time in place of David Herndon or Jose Conteras on the MLB squad? Because he’s the closer of the future, that’s why. The club needs to give him as many high-pressure innings as possible, and closing at Lehigh provides that better than being a white flag in Philadelphia. At the age of 23, there’s no need to rush him along, especially with Jonathan Papelbon being signed for four years. The best path would be to keep Aumont in triple-A all year, and then give him a chance to be the set-up man in 2013. Like Ryan Madson, Aumont will have a few seasons as the eighth-inning man to polish and refine his stuff, before assuming the role of closer in 2015.

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