The Seattle Mariners want Tom Wilhelmsen to become a quality major league closer again – and the path they’ve chosen is to let him start games for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
His debut wasn’t smooth.
Wilhelmsen endured a rough outing his first day with the Rainiers on Tuesday, giving up three runs in two innings.
Those happened to be the first two innings of the game, but Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson said that was a matter of logistics – the organization has no plans to convert him to a starting role.
“He can go out, he can throw, and then he’s done,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t have to go down in the bullpen and sit around and wonder when his time is going to be.
“He’ll be on a set schedule, and he won’t have to worry about any of the other stuff other than working on what he’s down there to work on.”
And what do they want him to work on?
“We wanted him to go back down and regain his confidence, pinpoint that fastball – having precise command with it like he’s had in the past, so his secondary stuff can work off of that,” Thompson said. “It’s been tough for him. The idea is to get him down there and let him start for a couple of innings and really work on command of the fastball.”
Wilhelmsen, 29, took over as the Mariners’ closer in June 2012 and ended the season tied for seventh in the American League with 29 saves.
He picked up where he left off early this season, then wobbled, lost his closing job and regained it before finally losing his spot on the big-league roster.
On the season he was 0-3 with a 4.37 earned-run average and 24 saves in 29 opportunities. He had walked 18 batters in his last 23 innings.
“He wasn’t surprised by it,” Thompson said. “I think he feels that he needs to go down there and get better and try to get back to where he was before, because over the last couple of month’s there’s really been inconsistency there when he takes the mound, no matter what the situation was.”
CAPPS CALLED UP
Wilhelmsen’s spot on the roster was taken by right-handed pitcher Carter Capps, who was recalled from Tacoma.
Capps, 22, began the season with Seattle but was sent down July 10 after going 2-2 with a 6.37 ERA.
In 11 innings during seven appearances in Triple A he allowed two earned runs (1.64 ERA).
“It’s going to be a little bit of a fresh feeling, hopefully,” Capps said. “I obviously wasn’t too happy with my performance last time. But now it’s a fresh start, and hopefully I’ll get things done.”
‘GUTI’ UP, NOT READY
Also Tuesday, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez returned from a rehab assignment in Tacoma but he remains on the 15-day disabled list.
“He’s still not 100 percent,” Thompson said. “He still has a couple of good days and a couple of bad days.”
Jason Bay, 34, was released. The outfielder had appeared in 68 games, batting .204 with 11 homers. He signed with Seattle as a free agent in December and was designated for assignment July 29.
The Mariners and Blue Jays conclude their three-game series with a 12:40 p.m. game Wednesday. Seattle right-hander Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.27 ERA) faces right-hander J.A. Happ (2-2, 4.91). Happ will make his first start since May 7 when he suffered a skull fracture after being struck behind the left ear by a line drive by Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @donruiztnt