Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen threw one simulated inning Wednesday at Anaheim, California, and afterward said he felt great and had not even thought about his hyperextended right elbow for 10 days.
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Rick Waits, after watching the session, each agreed Wilhelmsen looked great in his 25-pitch workout. And that, it seems, was good enough.
The Seattle Mariners activated Wilhelmsen from the disabled list prior to Friday’s series opener against Oakland at Safeco Field. To clear space, they optioned struggling reliever Dominic Leone to Triple-A Tacoma.
“Everything has been feeling good for quite a while,” Wilhelmsen said. “If they ask me to go two-plus innings, I’m ready to go two-plus innings. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
“I’ve been feeling good, and everything feels good out of my hand. There hasn’t been any issue (with the elbow) whatsoever in quite some time now.”
Wilhelmsen hasn’t pitched since April 10 — one day before he suffered the injury in a collision with bullpen teammate Danny Farquhar in a pregame conditioning workout.
“It stinks watching your guys lose,” Wilhelmsen said, “and knowing you can’t do anything about it other then cheerlead. That’s why you work hard to get back.”
Wilhelmsen compiled a 2.27 ERA last season in 57 games and serves as the bullpen’s primary multi-inning reliever. His return should allow other relievers to slot back into projected roles.
“I think it should help quite a bit,” McClendon said, “but I’m not going to make excuses for our bullpen. It’s been like the other four major aspects of our game; they haven’t been good.”
Club officials previously indicated Wilhelmsen, when judged ready to pitch, would require one or two tune-up outings in the minors on a rehab assignment prior to rejoining the big-league bullpen.
“We worked him out pretty hard,” McClendon said. “He looks like he’s in pretty good shape. The ball was coming out real well. I don’t believe that an inning in Tacoma is going to (matter).”
Leone departs after going 0-3 in eight appearances while allowing six runs and eight hits in 81/3 innings since his April 13 promotion from Tacoma to fill the vacancy created by Wilhelmsen’s injury.
Leone’s past two outings resulted in walk-off losses that contributed to the club’s 1-6 conclusion to a 10-game trip.
“He’s just got to pitch better,” McClendon said. “Get the ball down and work on mechanics. You can’t live up in the zone at this level.”
Leone offered a harsh self-assessment Tuesday in Anaheim after yielding a walk-off homer to Carlos Perez.
“I wouldn’t blame these guys,” Leone said, “if they all looked at me and (were) like, ‘Hey, pick your (stuff) up’ because that’s what needs to happen.”
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma played catch again in his recovery from a strained back muscle, but current estimates suggest he isn’t likely to rejoin the rotation before early June.
“I would say he’s probably still two to three weeks from going out (on a rehab assignment),” McClendon said. “And then he’s got to (pitch) a couple of times (before being activated).”
Iwakuma suffered a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle on April 21 while playing catch the day after his last start. He is 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts.
The Mariners and Athletics continue their three-game series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Lefty J.A. Happ (2-1, 3.51 ERA) will face Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn (1-2, 4.33).
The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.