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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 5, 2009 6:23 PM

Aumont to bullpen role

Posted by Geoff Baker

mlb_a_aumont_300.jpg

This has nothing to do with the major league team right now. But it could have plenty of impact on the team in the not-so-distant future. The Mariners have abandonned, for now, any plans to have former No. 1 draft pick Phillippe Aumont continue in a starting role. As was the case with Brandon Morrow, a first-rounder from 2006 now serving as a full-time reliever, Aumont has made a swtich to the bullpen.

He'll begin the year in Class AA (actually check that, he's likely to start in High Class A ball first), working out of the bullpen. I asked GM Jack Zduriencik about it earlier today and he confirmed that the plan is to convert Aumont to a relief role full-time.

"We felt that this was a guy, who, if used in a relief role, could be on a real fast-track to the major leagues,'' he said. "And we're talking a real fast track.''

In the end, Zduriencik said, it came down to whether the team was willing to wait several more years for Aumont to develop as a potential front-end starter for the rotation -- never a guarantee -- or go the more likely route of becoming a top bullpen arm in a much shorter timeframe.

Still, the fact the team used a No. 1 pick in 2007 on Aumont will undoubtedly lead to some head scratching. While the picks were not made by Zduriencik or his team, who were put in place only this past winter, the M's have now used their last three No. 1 draft selections -- Morrow, Aumont and Josh Fields -- on relief pitchers.

Zduriencik said that when you look at Aumont's size, most notably his 6-foot-7 height, it lends itself to being a top-of-the-line reliever.

"We had a conversation with him during camp and everyone's on board with the idea,'' Zduriencik said.

This is big news. For those of you pondering Stephen Strasburg and whether the M's -- if given the chance -- would spend the money needed to go after the San Diego State starter with their No. 2 overall pick next June, I think this increases the odds of that. There's still a chance the Washington Nationals might pass on Strasburg if his signing bonus demands get too high.

And right now, a Mariners team that, at the end of last season, was looking at Morrow and Aumont as part of a future rotation, now has neither pitcher to count on in that role.

Photo Credit: AP

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