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Aumont progressing nicely at Class A

Aumont progressing nicely at Class A

SEATTLE -- Phillippe Aumont isn't much older than your average college freshman. In fact, most of his buddies have just completed their first year out on their own.

But Aumont's been busy, too. It's just that his time has encompassed clubhouses, pitcher's mounds and workouts rather than dormitories and sleepless study nights powered by caffeinated beverages.

It's been a full year now since the Mariners took Aumont with their first-round pick -- No. 11 overall -- in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Currently with the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the young Canadian's last 12 months have been a whirlwind of appearances in the 2007 Arizona Instructional League, 2008 Spring Training and now finally his entrance into the Mariners farm system.

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And while there's no doubt this first level will test his skills and sky-high potential against quality competition, it's also a leap into a completely different world for a young man who is away from home and entering a full-time job despite being just a year removed from high school.

"Getting used to going to the ballpark every day, this is now your profession, and what you do every day," Mariners player development director Greg Hunter said. "We want to get him through the season, and get him through the season healthy, and get him acclimated to playing professional baseball and the routines and rituals that we do."

The lifestyle, of course, includes the increased competition on the field and an entrance into a world where each player is pushing, scratching and clawing for survival, a paycheck and a ticket to the Major Leagues. The Mariners made an effort to prepare their prospect for the situation with the instructional league and Spring Training experiences.

"You don't know how guys are going to do when they're competing against better competition than they've ever faced before," Hunter said. "And they're facing failure maybe for the first time."

As a coveted talent that the Mariners would like to see in their rotation for years to come, Aumont will be closely monitored this season in terms of innings and pitch count -- although Hunter didn't say exactly how many or if Aumont will stay in Class A the entire season.

Case in point -- with the weather in Appleton, Wis., a little cool to begin the season, Aumont started out of the Timber Rattlers bullpen. Now that the temperature has risen, he has begun to join the starting rotation -- the spot where Seattle sees him down the road.

Oh, and back to that increased competition part. Apparently it hasn't been too much trouble just yet. Following Tuesday's start, he owns a 1.47 ERA in 11 games (five starts) with a 0.93 WHIP, a .186 opponents' batting average and 41 strikeouts in 43 innings -- numbers that just earned him a spot in the Midwest League All-Star Game.

Not bad for a 19-year-old.

"He's obviously got very good stuff, and an ability to command his pitches," Hunter said. "And that's why he was taken where he was taken in the Draft."

While the Minor Leagues are certainly a place where players are sent to develop, Hunter pointed out that there will not be excessive meddling with Aumont's individual style. Again, this first year provides a cultural comfort level with the occupation as much as anything.

"We don't do a lot of tinkering with our pitchers. The first few years, we let 'em do what got 'em there," he said. "We allow them to use that to perform, and it's more about him getting acclimated to the professional game than any specific instruction that we're giving him."

At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Aumont offers a mouth-watering frame for a power pitcher at a very young age. And while the early statistics are impressive, they're merely a starting point on a long-term project.

"He's performed well. He's gone out there and he's done a nice job," Hunter said. "And he has a lot of ability and he's got a good work ethic, and yes, we're two months into his professional career."

Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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