"We discussed it with the kid and he’s excited about it," assistant general manager Benny Looper said Tuesday.
Aumont’s best pitch is a hard, sinking fastball. Phillies scouts clocked it up to 97 mph during the Arizona Fall League. Using Aumont as a starter will allow him to more fully utilize his complete repertoire of pitches, which includes a slider and changeup. Aumont had begun throwing a splitter last season, but the Phillies have asked him to discontinue using the pitch because it can increase the chance of arm injury.
"There are a lot of pluses to him starting," Looper said. "One of them is it will make him work on his secondary pitches which he’d need in the bullpen, as well."
The Mariners had shifted Aumont to relief work, from some combination of concern about hip soreness and a wish to get him to the majors as quickly as possible. He still might wind up there, if his durability proves a question or his secondary pitches don't develop, but he can physically handle it, using him as a starter is all to the good. Historically, even most elite closers (Mariano Rivera, Eric Gagne, Billy Wagner et al) honed their craft in minor league rotations, logging more innings and boosting their experience.
James at PhuturePhillies endorses the decision as well:
...I think giving him a season to start and see what they have makes a lot of sense. If his fastball can sit 93-94 with heavy sink and he can refine his curve and changeup enough to be average pitches, he can certainly be a middle of the rotation starter. And that has more value than a 7th/8th inning reliever. Aumont turned 21 a few days ago, he’ll likely spend 2010 at AA, where he will be young for the league.
While Aumont is not a likely option for the big-league rotation next season, as former top prospect Kyle Drabek might have been, the team has a number of plausible back-end starters in the high minors. Depending on how some spring training battles play out, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Andrew Carpenter, Yohan Flande, Vance Worley, Mike Cisco and others could be in the mix should the Phils need in-season rotation reinforcements.