At the end of spring training, Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar and his developmental staff had a long debate about whether to send righthander Phillippe Aumont to double-A Reading or single-A Clearwater.
Aumont, the top prospect acquired in the off-season trade for Cliff Lee, had made only eight starts as a professional pitcher. He spent all of 2009 as a reliever, but the Phillies viewed him as a starter.
They decided to send Aumont to double A. On Sunday, after 11 starts with Reading, Aumont was demoted to single A.
LaMar said he regrets the original decision to send the 6-foot-7 Aumont to Reading.
"I thought we made a mistake," he said Sunday. "I told Phillippe that today. Hindsight is 20-20. But we probably put him in a situation that was extremely hard for anyone."
Aumont, 21, was 1-6 with a 7.43 ERA at Reading. He pitched six no-hit innings in his fourth start of the season, leading LaMar and others to begin thinking it could work out.
Since that outing, Aumont has a 10.61 ERA. In 492/3 innings at Reading, he struck out 38 and walked 38. Opponents hit .284 against him.
LaMar said the team plans to keep Aumont as a starter. He may not start games right away for Clearwater, instead pitching three- or four-inning stints at a time to build his confidence back up.
"It's consistency," LaMar said. "His stuff is there, but at the double-A level, you not only have to have stuff, you have to have command of that stuff and be able to use it consistently. Right now, he's just a young kid with stuff who has to be able to use it. In the bullpen, where Seattle had him, you can come in for just an inning . . . but as a starting pitcher, throwing 100 pitches at the double-A level, you need to have more than that."
Aumont, the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, is undergoing changes. The Mariners raised his arm slot because they thought his sinker played better as a reliever from that spot. The Phillies have lowered Aumont's slot back to where it was before being drafted.
He also needs work on his secondary pitches, which were brushed aside when he went to the bullpen for Seattle.
"We think he's going to pitch in the major leagues for the Phillies," LaMar said. "We like his size. We like his stuff. We like his competitiveness. He also has to continue to gain confidence in himself. Ability can only take you so far. At some point you have to have results."
Since returning from the disabled list May 31, righthander Brad Lidge has yet to allow a baserunner. He pitched another 1-2-3 inning Sunday, in the ninth against San Diego. He struck out one.
Lidge's slider has been sharp since his return, something he attributes to a healthy right knee. Last season, when both his elbow and knee hurt, Lidge had to change his mechanics. It resulted in a less effective slider.
In seven games this season, Lidge has a 1.42 ERA.