SEATTLE — Long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen will draw his first starting assignment in three years Thursday when the Mariners turn to their bullpen in closing out their four-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field.
The move wasn’t entirely unexpected. Manager Lloyd McClendon hinted as such possibility last weekend when he announced plans to give staff ace Felix Hernandez an extra day of rest in order to have him start Friday’s series opener against Oakland at Safeco.
McClendon confirmed those plans prior to Wednesday’s game against the Twins. He also filled out his rotation for the weekend: Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young will start Saturday and Sunday against the A’s.
The announcement came shortly after the Mariners optioned right-hander Taijuan Walker to Triple-A Tacoma in order to remain on a regular schedule over next week’s four-day break for the All-Star Game. Walker will start Saturday and July 17, which positions him to return for a July 22 game against the New York Mets at Safeco.
The Mariners replaced Walker on their roster by recalling right-hander Stephen Pryor from Tacoma. That move adds a ninth pitcher to the bullpen.
McClendon also plans to start Iwakuma on July 18 when the Mariners open their post-break schedule in Anaheim. Hernandez is tentatively slotted for July 19, which would be four days after a possible appearance next Tuesday in the All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis.