When Cliff Lee takes the bump for the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds, he'll have a new teammate behind him in the bullpen with whom he shares a direct link. Phillipe Aumont, a hard throwing right-handed reliever who has shown flashes of major league talent while being mostly inconsistent, will join the Phils' pen tonight for yet another audition of young talent in a unit that has grayed hairs throughout the Delaware Valley the entire season.
Once you are involved in a trade for a player, you are directly linked to that player forever. Any sage baseball fan in Philadelphia could tell you what player was thrown into the 1982 trade that brought Ivan De Jesus to the Phillies in exchange for shortstop Larry Bowa. He's only in the Hall of Fame. In most cases, that link is largely unrecognized when the players thrown in don't pan out. There are countless ex-minor league baseball players that never make it to the show. They'll sit in pubs and share stories with the locals about the bus rides and dingy hotels, and they'll tell their grandkids that they were once traded for someone famous.
In November, 1974, the Atlanta Braves sent the standing baseball home run king, Hank Aaron, to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Dave May and a player to be named later. That player ended up being Roger Alexander. He never pitched in the major leagues, but the now 58-year old can tell anyone he ever meets he was once so sought after that the Braves traded Aaron to get him. Never mind that Aaron was in his 40s at the time. Those details fade into historic oblivion.
Aumont has safely avoided that fate now, but he'll have a different story to tell. After the Phillies lost the 2009 World Series to the New York Yankees, they set their minds on signing then Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Signing Doc would cost a small fortune in prospects, and with the Phillies making trade deadline deal after deal stemming back to the beginning of their playoff run in 2007, their farm system had been depleted. In an effort to restock that system with adding Halladay in mind, the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for three players. Two of those players, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez, have only the story of being traded for a Cy Young winner to this point. Aumont, the key chip for the Phillies in the trade, will finally go beyond someone else's story and begin crafting one of his own Tuesday night.
It would be a rarity should Aumont get into tonight's ball game, relieving, in his major league debut, the very pitcher he was acquired for in a trade. The Phillies reacquired Lee via free agency before the 2011 season.
Aumont's minor league career has seen more ups and downs than a yo-yo. Largely groomed as a reliever by Seattle, the Phillies tried to make Aumont a starter in 2010 at A Clearwater and AA Reading. Aumont went 2-5 that season with a respectable 2.68 combined ERA at both levels. He's got an overpowering fastball and features an above average curveball and a split. The rap on Aumont is his command, or more accurately, the inconsistency of his command.
The Phillies moved Aumont back to the pen in 2011 after some arm issues and the former first round pick (11th overall) in the 2007 draft gave the organization reason to be believe he could be groomed into a future closer. At 23, they believe the time is now to start seeing what they have at the big league level. Aumont went 3-1 for AAA Lehigh Valley this season, with a 4.26 ERA and 15 saves. His 59 strikeouts in 44.1 innings pitched are encouraging. His 34 walks and 1.5-plus WHIP are not.
Tonight, the Phillies start finding out whether they acquired a Ryne Sandberg (the throw in to the Cubs along with Bowa back in '82), or just another guy who was once traded for someone famous.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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