Aumont learning to harness stuff, emotions
Closer prospect honing skills in Arizona Fall League
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first full season right-hander Phillippe Aumont spent as a relief pitcher taught him all about the thrill of getting the final out of a game -- and even more about the pain caused by taking a blown save too seriously.
Like don't take out your frustrations by punching a metal locker.
The Mariners' strong-armed prospect, who worked a perfect inning of relief in his first outing with the Arizona Fall League Peoria Javelinas, said he has moved past the midseason incident. But he flashed a sheepish grin recently when asked about the freakish injury he sustained following a game with Double-A West Tennessee.
He explained that his emotions began to simmer two days earlier when he was unable to protect a lead.
"That was tough to take," Aumont said. "You're competitive and you don't want to get beat, but I moved on from that one."
Moving on from the second consecutive blown save was not as easy.
"I lost my mind. I lost it completely," Aumont said with a half-smile. "I barely remember anything because I just completely lost it. When something gets you real bad, and you have a hard time controlling yourself, that's what happened. I just started hitting my locker with my left hand. I didn't feel it at the time because the adrenaline was just pumping so much.
"I calmed down, started getting undressed, and didn't feel anything at the time."
Luckily, it was Aumont's non-pitching hand and he didn't think much about it, but when he woke up the next day and noticed his left hand was considerably larger than his right, he could only hope that it was nothing serious.
Aumont went to the ballpark, put on his uniform and started to play catch.
"I couldn't do it," he said. "I told the trainer what happened and went to see the doctor."
Aumont missed almost a month of a regular season, giving him plenty of time to reassess his mental approach.
"I definitely would never do that again," Aumont said. "But I think in a good way, it was a valuable lesson. It taught me to keep my emotions [under control] and move on."
The former first-round Draft choice (11th selection overall in 2007) is back on track and hopes to use the Arizona Fall League as a springboard to the Mariners' bullpen next season.
"I have this great opportunity here," he said. "I know there are a lot of front-office people from the Mariners coming down to watch, and even if they aren't here, they are going to hear about it. I will do my best to show them I can compete at a higher level."
Aumont posted a 3.24 ERA with 12 saves in 29 appearances for Class A High Desert this past season before being promoted to West Tennessee in mid-July. He went 1-4 with a 5.09 ERA and four saves in 15 relief appearances, striking out 24 batters in 17 2/3 innings.
Despite not having pitched at the Triple-A level, a solid six weeks in the AFL could catapult Aumont into the Seattle bullpen picture when Spring Training opens in mid-February.
The Mariners have a surplus of potential starters, and although most of the relievers -- including right-handed closer David Aardsma -- return next season, the probable loss of right-hander Miguel Batista to free agency could create an opening.
"Next year is a big year for me," Aumont said.
In Arizona, Aumont is getting a chance to measure himself against some of the top Minor League hitting prospects.
"We have not yet established specific roles," Javelinas manager Kevin Bradshaw said, "but with an arm like his, he definitely will be pitching at the end of games."
Pitching late in games was something totally foreign to the Canadian prior to this season.
The 20-year-old initially was not selected to pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic because the Mariners were concerned he would not be physically able to handle the workload as a starter.
But Aumont later suggested he could be used in relief and was granted permission from Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik to participate in the Classic.
In his first Classic outing, Aumont loaded the bases with nobody out and then retired Major League stars David Wright, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson in order to escape the jam unscathed.
It was the beginning of Aumont's career as a reliever.
"I had some arm issues in my first year and [Mariners officials] probably thought it would be a better role for me," Aumont said. "I do like it. It's totally different, but I love it. It's a different game. It brings everything out of me in one inning and then I'm done. And I have the mind-set to do this."
Indeed, the Mariners now envision Aumont becoming one of their late-inning relievers one day, eventually moving into the high-pressured closer role. He's big, 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, powerful and appears to be tailor-made for late-inning relief work.
"I'm pretty aggressive on the mound, and sometimes it's difficult for me to keep my emotions in check," he said. "As a starter, you've got to keep your emotions for six or seven innings. I had that in [Class A] Wisconsin, where maybe in the fourth inning I'd come out and be pumped, and it would just gas me for the next couple of innings."
Now, pitching one or two innings at a time, Aumont can let it fly and not worry about pacing himself. It just might be the ticket to fulfilling his dream of pitching in the big leagues.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.