"Step right up, gentlemen and see if you have what it takes to be in the last place Phillies’ rotation. We’ll be holding tryouts all month so why not give it a shot? Don’t be shy. Remember, it’s hard to do any worse than some of the ones who’ve already tried."
If the Phillies were really a carnival sideshow (no, they’re not) that might be the way they’d entice prospective pitchers. This weekend Phillippe Aumont, the poster child for the disastrous 2010 Cliff Lee trade and a living reminder why trading established players for prospects is a risky proposition, tried to knock down the pins and win a kewpie doll. He was the emergency fill-in for Cole Hamels, who skipped his turn with slight groin strain he vows won’t sideline him more than a start.
But the 26-year-old Aumont kept hitting the stuffed teddy bears on the side instead, walking seven and surrendering six earned runs in just four innings. That’s most times anyone’s said "Ball Four" since Jim Bouton wrote a book about it -- or at least a journeyman Phillies pitcher named Paul Abbott walked nine in 2004.
"It was just a constant battle with myself," said a frustrated Aumont, who was designated for assignment Saturday and not even around to witness lefthander Adam Morgan make his major league debut yesterday. "That's what it's been my whole career. Just me, myself and I out there battling. Nobody else. Because when I execute my pitches I get these guys out."
It’s debatable if Aumont will ever get another chance with the Phils, who’ve been running guys in and out all season with little success. Since starting the season with Hamels, Aaron Harang, David Buchanan. Jerome Williams and Sean O’Sullivan, they’ve used five more, Aumont and Morgan following Chad Billingsley, Dustin McGowan and recently signed Kevin Correia.
Meanwhile, stud prospect Aaron Nola waits in the wings, with Ryne Sandberg admitting part of the hesitancy to bring him up is because they want to limit the amount of innings he pitches this year
"Going forward I need some starting pitching to help us out so our bullpen guys don’t get abused," said Sandberg during a week where the Phillies were outscored 50-14 and even had to resort to using outfielder Jeff Francoeur for a couple of innings. "But I think there’s something to that thing about young starting pitchers who don’t have the innings from college and have to go a long stretch at this level. They can come here now and might have to be shut down when they get to their innings limit. There’s a lot of strategy to that."
All of which means Nola likely will remain in the minors for at least a while longer, while the Phils play musical pitchers with the current mix. That figures to change, though, should they finally trade Hamels and/or Harang.
"The way I look at it is they gave me an opportunity," said Aumont, who wants to go back to Lehigh Valley and keep plugging away assuming he clears waivers again. "They’re the ones who called me up to the big leagues the first time. All my memories are with them."
Memories are about all Phillies fans have these days, with their team seemingly headed towards 100 losses. Memories of five straight N.L. East titles and of course, that one glorious 2008 World Championship season, memories of filling the ballpark night after night, and memories of the "Four Aces," (Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hamels to go with Joe Blanton), a pitching rotationg for the ages.
A far cry from now.
"Gentlemen, any one of you could be next. Just step right up and give it a shot. After all, what do you have to lose—except another ballgame."