Coming into the 2013 season, there was a decent amount of optimism regarding the Phillies bullpen. One of the worst 'pens in the National League a year earlier, the Phillies leaned on their younger relievers to augment the veteran presence of Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams. Among those relievers was Phillippe Aumont, a tall right-handed flame-thrower who was acquired from Seattle as part of the Cliff Lee trade.
You can count on multiple hands the number of references I made to Aumont becoming a legitimate late-inning relief threat for the Phillies, with his ultimate destination as the ninth inning. I – as well as others – made such claims based on the skill set that he possessed, and on the array of pitches that was quite often on display during the 2012 season.
Not only did he look the part, but he performed as such, too. In 14.2 innings of work (a very small sample size, I know), Aumont had a 3.68 ERA and 8.6 K/9. To be fair, he also walked over five batters per nine innings, but his ability to strike everyone out would theoretically neutralize his lack of control. Besides, it's not like a mechanical adjustment couldn't be made to sharpen his command, so there was little reason that the 23-year-old wouldn't adjust.
After a solid spring, Aumont broke camp with the Phillies, and soon found himself getting work with some frequency as a middle reliever. He was the losing pitcher in three of the games, and ended up with as many walks (7) as strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work. The results (3.52 ERA) were better than the process, but it was less than ten innings, so there was no need to overreact.
But things didn't get better for Aumont, who continued to struggle with his command in his appearances, leading to fewer and fewer appearances. He was demoted to AAA Lehigh Valley in late May, where he somehow managed to lose whatever control he had remaining. In 10.2 innings of work, for the IrongPigs, he walked 15 batters. He was recalled for another brief stint with the Phils, but was soon sent back down to AAA. His poor command persisted, and he walked 23 batters in 25 innings of work in his return to Lehigh Valley.
At the end of the season, his stat line looked like this:
MLB: 1-3, 4.19 ERA, 19.1 IP, 8.8 K/9, 6.1 BB/9
AAA: 0-2, 4.04 ERA, 35.2 IP, 10.6 K/9, 9.6 BB/9
Typically, the minor leagues serve as a bit of a reprieve for struggling players, who oftentimes excel against younger and less talented competition. That was not the case for Aumont, who failed in spectacular fashion. His performance with the IronPigs was downright Ankielian, and it severely called into question whether or not he has the chops to pitch with any level of success in the majors.
To make things worse, Aumont appeared to have had a disagreement with the organization about how he should be handled after being shuffled back and forth between the Phillies and the IronPigs. Based on his performance between both levels, it's hard not to see where there may have been a difference in philosophy as it pertains to the reliever. Either way, 2013 was a season to forget for Aumont, who was once ranked as one of the better pitching prospects in the game.
The bright side to all of this is that Aumont is still young enough and talented enough to turn it around. He's got the size, the strength, and the repertoire, but that doesn't mean much if he can't put it all together. But in light of the Phillies not bringing back pitching coach Rich Dubee, it could be the perfect opportunity for Aumont to start fresh with some new guidance at the Major League level.