With rosters expanding today, the Mariners added another arm to the bullpen by calling up reliever and former closer Tom Wilhelmsen from Triple A Tacoma.
Wilhelmsen was optioned to Tacoma on August 5 after his continued struggles in late-inning appearances made it impossible for them to keep him on the big league roster.
There was no secret as to what Wilhelmsen was working on in Triple A.
“Throwing strikes, just trying to throw strikes,” he said. “It’s been that way the last month but what you are always trying to do.”
So was he able to do that? His stats with Tacoma were unimpressive. He made eight appearances with the Rainiers, pitching 12 innings and earning two saves, while giving up 19 hits and 14 runs with 15 strikeouts and posting a 10.50 ERA.
“If I’m working on throwing strikes and the numbers aren’t good, that means I’m throwing strikes cause they are hitting them,” he said. “So I was successful in what I was supposed to be doing.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was aware of the numbers, but believes Wilhelmsen is still pitching better than they would indicate. It’s pretty simple for what Wilhelmsen needs to do.
“The biggest thing is throwing his fastball where he wants to and being able to execute pitches, working ahead and making it a little bit easier for himself,” Wedge said. “We’ve seen him come up here before and do well, even better than what he did in the minor leagues. Hopefully he can flip that switch again.”
Wedge doesn’t have any set plans or roles for Wilhelmsen’s usage.
“I’m going to use him in multiple roles really,” he said. “I’m not going to put him in one role or the other. I’m just going to ease him in and see what happens. The sooner we get Tom in there and find out where he is, the sooner will have a better idea of how we can use him.”
There are many fans who have given up on Wilhelmsen and his late inning implosions. But Wedge isn’t going to give up on a pitcher with Wilhelmsen’s power fastball and knee-buckling curveball.
“I do feel strongly that he’s going to be part of this,” Wedge said. “In what role? I don’t know. But he has too big of an arm, he’s had too much experience, he’s had too much success up here in a vital role not to be. I’m hoping all these trials he’s gone through ultimately help him be a more complete bullpen guy because of what he has gone through. He’s seen both sides of it.”
There was some thought that the Mariners might convert Wilhelmsen back to starting. But Wedge isn’t ready to do that.
“I still feel like with his personality that he’s still more of a bullpen guy,” Wedge said. “I think he has the pitches to be a starter if he needs to be. But you’re talking about stretching a guy out, talking about taking years to stretch him out where he can be a viable starter where he can throw 170, 180 not to mention 200 innings. That’s not something that happens over night without putting him in harm’s way.”