Aumont confident he has fixed his flawed mechanics
After last year's banishment to the minors, reliever Phillippe Aumont thinks the fresh start will do him good.
IT CAN FEEL pretty damn good when you finally realize what you are doing wrong. That doesn't mean you stop doing it, only that you understand when it has been done. When you yank your approach shot into the woods, but feel your front half open up. When you clank a shot off the side of the rim, but feel your guide hand muck up your release.
For Phillippe Aumont, it's his front arm, the left one, the one that, earlier this week while standing in front of his locker, he held straight in front of himself, as if expecting one of his teammates to attempt a karate kick to his sternum.
"For me, I feel like it's all with the front glove," the 25-year-old righthander said. "Staying strong, staying there, up until I fire."
He dropped the arm and moved it to his side, so that it looked more like a chicken wing.
"If this gets out of the way . . . "
He swiveled his torso, the front shoulder opening up toward the chicken wing, toward an imaginary first base.
" . . . then this just opens up. It becomes side to side, and I fly open, or I'll just yank it."
Aumont's voice danced with the excitement of somebody who has finally ascertained true understanding after a long period in which all he could do was emptily nod. Now, after a tumultuous 2013 in which he was banished to the minors after 2 months of inconsistency and was not invited back at the end of the season, the flame-throwing righthander is determined to parlay his new knowledge into a spot on the Phillies' Opening Day roster.
"What happened last year was really a question mark," Aumont said. "Like, 'Why is this happening?' All of that stuff. But if you look back on video, I'm not sound mechanically, I was not sound mentally, that's for sure."
The truth is, Aumont has always meant well. At 6-7, 260 pounds with dense, black whiskers coating the lower half of his face, he might look like an extra from a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick, but he is soft-spoken and congenial and genuine, and you really get the sense that all he wants to do is live up to his employer's expectations, to make everybody who has ever believed in him proud. Over and over, he stresses how grateful he is for the fresh start he feels as if he has been given. He understands he did not please many folks in the organization when he vented his frustration at having been sent down after 19 appearances in which his respectable 4.19 ERA was marred by the 13 walks he issued in 19 1/3 innings. But he also understands that he wasn't the only person who was frustrated in 2013, and that everybody else has moved on. If there is one person who has been most rejuvenated by the new coaching regime, it is probably Aumont.
"The events just kept repeating, repeating," Aumont said. "I've brushed off 2013, like it never happen. Obviously, you learn from it. A bad experience, you can grow from that. But in terms of memory and all of that stuff, it's all behind me, and right now I'm just thinking about making this club."
He'll have an opportunity. With his heavy sinker and nasty breaking ball, he has the tools to be an important member of the Phillies bullpen. For Aumont, it has always been about repeating his mechanics, and he is convinced he has all of it figured out. Watch his video from last season and everything unfolds as he explains. When he is bad, he flies open, his upper body moving from right to left instead of toward the plate, pulling his right arm with it, sending the ball straight and up into the zone. Look at a chart of his release points from 2013 and compare it with one from 2012, when he was called up late in the season and posted a 3.68 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9. In 2013, the dots marking his release point are all over the place. In 2012, they are much more concentrated.
Consistency. Physically, mentally. That is Aumont's goal. Sometimes, the biggest step is figuring out why you haven't been achieving it.