M’s power up across border

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, June 7, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – It’s no secret that the Seattle Mariners value power in a pitcher.

They weren’t afraid to rush youngsters like Mark Lowe and Brandon Morrow from Class A ball to the major leagues each of the past two seasons, taking advantage of their 97 mph fastballs.

And Thursday, when hard-throwing right-hander Phillippe Aumont remained on the board as the Mariners prepared to make the 11th overall pick in baseball’s amateur draft, they jumped.

Aumont, 18, is a 6-foot-7, 225-pound pitcher from Gatineau, Quebec, whose fastball has reached 96 mph and, according to scouts, has late movement.

“Phillippe is a power pitcher and we are confident he will be able to contribute to the success of our organization very quickly,” said Bob Fontaine, the Mariners’ scouting director. “When you look at this kid and see how big and strong he is and how big and strong he will continue to get, you can’t help but get excited.

“We went in thinking we had a shot at three pitchers and this is one of them. We thought going in that he maybe was the one we wouldn’t get. But as it got closer, we all started looking around at each other thinking we might have a chance.”

Aumont has international experience with Team Canada in the World Junior Games, but he’s overall an experienced pitcher who will need time to develop, according to scouting reports.

He throws that enticing fastball, but also has a slider and a changeup, neither of them considered plus-pitches yet.

Aumont doubts there will be any hangups in signing with the Mariners, who have until Aug. 15 to sign their draft picks.

“I don’t see a problem signing right now,” he said. “It’s a big deal for me to play pro ball. I’ve been working so hard to play pro ball right away, I think I’m ready for it. College is a second option for me, but I can always go during the offseason or something like that.”

Aumont isn’t necessarily a project with a high ceiling, but he does lack the experience of other highly rated pitchers, and not only because he’s from Eastern Canada. He didn’t begin playing baseball until he was 11, and even then he was a center fielder.

“I was only a center fielder because I had a good arm,” he said. “Then they put me on the bump.”

That move to “the bump” – or mound – didn’t happen until four years ago, but he flourished quickly. Aumont became a star on Canada’s Junior National Team, and last year he pitched six scoreless innings against Cuba.

Aumont said he wasn’t a die-hard baseball fan as young kid, but he maintained a keen interest in Randy Johnson, the 6-foot-10 left-hander who starred for the Mariners in the 1990s.

“That was my big boy,” Aumont said. “Every time he was on the mound, I would turn on the TV to watch him pitch.”

The Mariners finished the first day of the draft with two pitchers, an infielder and three outfielders among their six picks. Today, they’ll get 44 more players in the 50-round draft.

After Aumont, the Mariners selected:

* Matthew Mangini, a third baseman from Oklahoma State University, in the supplemental round (compensation for losing free agent Gil Meche). He’s a left-handed hitter who won the Cape Cod League batting title last year with a .310 average and is considered one of best pure hitters among college players.

“Any time you can get a big strong kid with power from that side of the plate, you have to feel good,” Fontaine said.

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