Aumont enters no judgement zone

RP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) during pitcher's fielding practice before playing Team USA. Photo: Baseball Canada. 

RP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) during pitcher's fielding practice before playing Team USA. Photo: Baseball Canada. 

By Bob Elliott

CARY, N.C. _ Phillippe Aumont’s first major-league start for the Philadelphia Phillies was June 19.

It was on a Friday night at Citizen’s Bank Park before 21,169 fans.
After pitching four-innings -- six runs on five hits, including two homers, and seven walks -- he left the park.

Arriving the next day he was designated for assignment and that same Saturday jumped into his car and drove home to Gatineau, Que. 

After that the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder didn’t want to pitch.

Not for the Phillies who asked him to return to the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Instead, he thanked for the Phillies for the opportunity.

He didn’t want to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays, who phoned.
Same with the Chicago White Sox.

Ditto for the Cincinnati Reds.

And for a time he didn’t want to pitch for Team Canada in the Pan Am games which begin Saturday.

He wanted to stay home with his two dogs a Dogo Argentino and a Brittanes Mountain dog.

It looked as if the next team Aumont, a first round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2007 (11th over all), would throw a pitch for would be the Gatineau River Hawks of the National Capital Baseball League, an Ottawa sandlot league.

When word broke on Twitter that the seventh-place River Hawks’ had a new addition, Phillies and capital fans were all a twitter.

“A friend of mine, Jean Francois Daoust, who used to coach me, asked if they could put my name on their roster as sort of a fun thing,” said Aumont before Canada played its first warm-up game at the USA National Training Complex at Thomas Brooks Park Monday afternoon.

The River Hawks are 5-10, ahead of only the Ottawa Outlaws after winning the NCBL Tier II championship last summer.

“I needed to take a step back, put the season on hold, I was messed up,” said Aumont.

So, after not wanting to pitch how did Aumont get here?

“I spoke to Greg Hamilton,” said the reliever, about the director of national teams, who serves as a coach on Ernie Whitt’s staff. “At first I wasn’t sure about coming to play. He convinced me.

“This team is family. This is a no judgement zone.”

So Aumont is wearing a red uniform which reads CANADA across his chest. It is his 13th trip. None more memorable than the seventh inning at Rogers Centre during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

After allowing a double to Dustin Pedroia, a Jimmy Rollins single and a Chipper Jones walk, the reliever, who had never pitched above double-A found himself with a none-out, bases-loaded jam against Team USA. 

David Wright lined out to short and then Aumont struck out Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson leaving to a Don Cherry-like ovation from the crowd of 42,314.

With Team Canadian he is re-united with Denis Boucher, his former pitching coach.

“Denis being here made a difference,” Aumont said. “He’s not in your grill about every moving part of your body. He’s load, balance, extend and finish.

“It gets very technical in pro ball.”

This is the fifth time they’ve been together with the Canadian team.

“I remember in Puerto Rico four years ago: five innings, one hit, 10 punch out against Cuba,” said Boucher recalling the sweet memory. “If we could get another one of those from him ...”

Before being promoted Aumont moved from the bullpen to the rotation at Lehigh Valley going 3-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 14 games -- 10 starts -- walking 17 and striking out 41 in 65 innings. Opponents hit just .222 off of him.

The Phillies were impressed enough to promote Aumont for the spot start replacing Cole Hamels.

“I was starting to walk more, starting to get rattled, before that,” said Aumont who starts Wednesday against Cuba in the warm-up finale and is scheduled to start the third game of the Pan Ams a week next Monday against Nicaragua.

After being traded with Tyson Gillies, of Langley, B.C. and J.C. Ramirez by the Mariners to the Phillies for Cliff Lee, Aumont spent 5 1/2 seasons at Lehigh Valley. Gillies is his roommate in Cary and the Canuck centre fielder. 

“I was there (Allentown, Penn.) so long, I could have run for mayor,” said Aumont with a laugh.

At Lehigh, he issued 166 walks, struck out 261, threw 46 wild pitches, hit 16 batters, allowed eight homers, committed five balks and saved 20 games in 222 2/3 innings.

With the Phillies he was 1-6 in his career with a 6.80 ERA in 46 games, walking 34 and striking out 42 in 43 2/3 innings. 

In his start against the St. Louis Cardinals, Aumont pitched a scoreless first walking Matt Carpenter. 

Jason Heyward led off the second with a double and Yadier Molina homered. With two out, opposing pitcher Tyler Lyons singled and Kolten Wong hit a two-run homer. Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta each walked before Aumont retired Mark Reynolds. 

Aumont walked Molina and Randal Grichuk before getting a grounder to end the third. And in his final inning he walked Lyons on a 3-2 pitch, Carpenter on five pitched and gave up a double to Heyward.

And with that, his 104th pitch (56 strikes) Aumont’s career with the Phillies ended. 

His next pitch won’t be with the River Hawks.

It will be Wednesday against Cuba and then Nicaragua.

And then ... pro scouts will be in Ajax watching and evaluating the free agent.