Phillippe Aumont entered a tie game in the ninth, walked the leadoff guy, recorded only one out, and proceeded to lose the game for the Phils to an awful baseball team. Yep, and I could not be prouder of him.
Phillippe Aumont surely has the stuff to be the future closer of the Phillies organization, but he has not shown the head of a future closer early on in his career. The whole Roy Halladay story has brought with it constant references to Harvey Dorfman, Doc's mentor and the author of Halladay's Bible, The Mental ABC's of Pitching. That book chronicles the mind of a major league pitcher and provides the context of which to judge all pitchers. The Mental ABC's helps us understand the importance of a pitcher's presence on the mound - strong minded pitchers are careful not to show emotion and to never give the slightest indication of weakness.
We witnessed with Cole Hamels in 2009 just how important a pitcher's presence is to his success. Hamels constantly voiced his displeasure with umpires and showed his frustration when fielders made a mistake. The result was the worst season in Hamels' career.
I bring this all up because Aumont has displayed much of the body language of an immature and un-veteran-like pitcher on the mound. March 17 was a perfect example in a game in which he walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches. Anyone in the stands knew Aumont was struggling, but his demeanor on the mound also alerted his opponents that he was frustrated. Taking long walks around the mound, fixing his hat, and frequently staring up to the sky injected an immediate dose of confidence to Orioles hitters. "He clearly has nothing today, so I am going to tee off on this guy," they might have said.
After getting ahead of the next hitter, his demeanor completely changed as he proceeded to strike out the next two batters and ended the inning with a forceout. Although his change of fortune demonstrated why the Phillies are so enamored with Phillippe, it did not solve the underlying issue. It reminded me of my favorite quote from Dorfman: "If you want to know who I am, watch me when things aren't going my way."
Last night's ballgame was an indication of the maturation of Phillippe Aumont. After walking the leadoff batter, a big no-no in a tight game, Aumont appeared confident the results would change with the next guy. He got exactly what he wanted with Dobbs and induced a ground ball to first base, but Frandsen couldn't make the play and Aumont was now faced with a first and third, nobody out situation.
An unconfident and mentally weak pitcher would have pumped one fastball after another in frustration. Instead, Aumont showed a sound mind. Knowing he needed a strikeout, Aumont threw nothing but sharp breaking balls to the next batter and earned the strikeout he needed. He followed that by inducing a ground ball which should have resulted in an out at the plate and a chance to survive the inning. Of course we know what happened next when Utley mishandled the ball, but that takes nothing away from Aumont's performance.
My hope is that Rich Dubee and his Phillies teammates reminded Phillippe of his gutty performance. I also hope that he is not so fragile to have his confidence shattered by one unfortunate outing. I guess time will tell whether this was a coming-of-age performance or the mishap to spiral downward a pitcher who has not mastered his ABC's.
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