Oh, it was so tempting. Phillippe Aumont could have had a full three days to relax.
Would he read? Maybe go see a 7 p.m. movie, something that's unheard of during baseball season. What about just lounging on the couch flipping through the stations to his heart's content?
When the Phillies optioned Aumont to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after Wednesday's game in Miami, disappointment in his demotion set in and he thought about taking advantage of the Major League Baseball rule that says players being sent to the minor leagues don't have to report there for a full 72 hours.
"I was like, I'm not showing up [right away]," he said. "I'm not doing anything."
Three hours of thinking on the plane changed his mind.
"I was like, 'Don't be that guy,'" he told himself. "Don't be the guy who's going to be the tough guy and act like you're better than everybody else because I'm not. The Phillies sent me down for a reason. I'm going to work. The faster I can get this done, with quality, time and work, then I can get back up there."
Aumont, 24, will be attached to IronPigs pitching coach Ray Burris while he's in Allentown. The 6-foot-7 right-handed reliever has to figure out a way to place his fastball, curve ball and splitter better.
In Aumont's first 11 innings pitched (13 games), he walked 10. In his last three outings, he changed the way he attacked hitters and didn't hand out any free passes. The problem was his pitches were getting far too much of the plate. Of the 11 batters he faced in his last two innings pitched, six reached base (all via hits, .545 BAA) and he gave up three runs, sending his season ERA from 2.45 on May 9 to 4.15 on May 20.
"That was a positive," Aumont said of his three walk-free outings. "But then it was becoming making that quality pitch. Sometimes it was up in the zone and a guy can still barrel it no matter how hard you throw, no matter how much movement you have on it. It's about making the right pitch in the right place."
The Seattle Mariners' former first-round pick who was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade in 2009, ironically had now been pitching on the same staff as Lee, and the left-hander is someone Aumont is trying to emulate. Aumont admitted he watched Lee's last outing — a complete-game shutout in which he threw 74 percent of his pitches for strikes (85 of 115) — in amazement.
Pinpoint control like that has helped Lee to one of the lowest WHIP's in baseball in 2013. His 1.02 WHIP is the 10th-best in the National League among starters who have pitched at least 40 innings.
Aumont's WHIP, on the other hand, is 2.077, the highest among any Phillies pitcher this season with at least five innings pitched.
"I look when [Lee] throws and it's at the knees, it's inside, it's on the corners, it's above the belt to get them to pop it up or strike out," Aumont said. "He's a guy who goes out there and he basically says, 'You see this, hit it. If you can hit it, then you'll take me out of the game. If you can't, well then I'm going to take you out of the game.'"
Aumont did have a couple big hurdles in front of him.
The Quebec native endured frequent long stretches when he didn't get in games. He twice went six days without pitching, two times went five days without getting in a game and twice more went four days without game action.
Aumont didn't use that as a crutch, but was honest when he said it was a challenge both mentally and physically when he had long dry spells.
"Especially in baseball, we talk a lot of about consistency and it's hard to stay consistent when you don't work at it," he said. "You can do as much as you want when you're out there [in the bullpen]. You stretch and you play catch and you throw your little flat ground or maybe a little side bullpen. But it's never live. You don't have a hitter in there. With a hitter in there, it's different. Now there's a mind game going on."
Other mind games came into play with Phillies relievers while Aumont was up there. The lack of consistency from the offense — before Friday's game they ranked 12th in the N.L. in runs scored and scored three runs or fewer in 26 of their first 47 games — did nothing to help the bullpen settle in.
Instead, relievers were taking over in the middle of an inning when the bases were loaded or the opponent had two on and nobody out far too frequently. It's led to Phillies relievers having allowed 26 of the 56 runners (46.4 percent) they've inherited to score (before Friday).
"For a lot of guys in the bullpen, it was hard," Aumont said. "We were struggling offensively a little bit and then there were pressure situations. We were up by one and we know that some days you see the guys don't have it, and it's like, 'We have to keep it there, or else we're not going to get it back.' With those pressure situations, you try to keep it out of the equation because you're there to get the job done no matter what the situation is. But we're human and sometimes without even knowing it, you're just feeling the vibe of everything that's happening."
The only vibe Aumont wants to feel when he's with the IronPigs is a positive one, something he has dedicated himself to focusing on, especially after the 2010 season when he started the year with Double-A Reading and wound up being demoted to Single-A Clearwater.
"That's when I discovered that without even knowing it, I was so negative about everything," Aumont said. "Nothing good comes from being negative. Being positive, I think is going to bring you success much quicker than just fighting the negativity."
It's that attitude that had Aumont pitching in Allentown on Wednesday instead of chilling on the couch. And it's the same one manager Charlie Manuel hopes will have Aumont back under his reins sooner rather than later.
"Aumont is what you look for, with his size, his talent, his fastball," Manuel said. "It's about getting consistency, getting more experience. I think he's got a chance to be special."
There are few better endorsements than that.