CLEARWATER, Fla. - At this point, after another spring in which he failed to stick with the major-league club, Phillippe Aumont probably would benefit from a change of scenery.
"Obviously, I think anybody would think that," he said. "But the bottom line is I'm still here, and I'm still getting an opportunity somewhere. That's all that really matters."
None of baseball's other 29 teams deemed Aumont worthy of a waiver claim, so the hard-throwing but erratic 6-foot-7 reliever was outrighted Wednesday off the Phillies' 40-man roster. The lone holdover from the December 2009 trade of Cliff Lee to the Mariners will begin yet another season at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
The Phillies want Aumont, 26, to continue to work on his consistency. "It's more when I get spurts of good games and then I'll sort of hit a wall," he said while packing his bags before making the short walk to the minor-league complex. "They're trying to get me to a point where I can extend that somewhat to a full season."
This was an important spring for Aumont, who arrived in Clearwater with no remaining minor-league options. Over 82/3 Grapefruit League innings, the Canadian righthander allowed five runs, four earned, on 13 hits, three of which were home runs. He struck out 10 and walked only two.
It wasn't enough.
"He's shown some improvement throwing strikes more consistently. He just hasn't pitched well enough to be on our major-league club," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He ran out of time with us, at least for now. But we have him in our system."
Despite Aumont's struggles in recent years, the fact that another team did not claim him was somewhat surprising given his raw talent and towering frame. Seattle drafted him 11th overall in 2007 before trading him with Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez for Lee.
Aumont is the only one of the three former prospects from the deal still in the Phillies system. He recorded a 3.93 ERA over 35 triple-A appearances last year and gave up 12 runs in 52/3 major-league innings.
"I don't think that affects him at all," Amaro said of the potential burdens on Aumont because he was part of the Lee trade. "He just hasn't performed. It's about performance. It's pretty simple. You've got to perform better to stay in the major leagues. He hasn't done that. We're hoping that we can get him to that point at some point, but he just hasn't been able to do it yet."
Aumont could have asked the Phillies for his release to try to catch on with another organization. He did not do so, and this week he will report back to the affiliate with which he has made 126 appearance over the last four seasons.