SEATTLE — Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen threw one simulated inning Wednesday at Anaheim and, afterward, said he felt great and had not even thought about his hyperextended right elbow for 10 days.
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 his 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 pre-game 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,” manager Lloyd 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 8 1/3 innings since his April 13 promotion from Tacoma to fill the vacancy created by Wilhelmsen’s injury.
Leone’s last two outings resulted in walk-off losses that contributed to the club’s 1-6 conclusion to a 10-game trip that began with a three-game sweep at Texas.
“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 like, `Hey, pick your (stuff) up’ because that’s what needs to happen.”
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma played catch again Friday 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 21while playing catch the day after his last start. He is 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts.
MILLER AS DH
Brad Miller drew his first starting assignment — as the designated hitter — since shifting roles Monday from shortstop to utility player. His first duty in the outfield might come soon.
With center fielder Austin Jackson on the disabled list, McClendon opted Friday for an outfield of left fielder Seth Smith, center fielder Dustin Ackley and right fielder Nelson Cruz.
“I think (Miller) is to the point now that, if we had an emergency, he could go in the outfield,” McClendon said. “Look, he played short. He’s a good athlete…This is not a major-major transition for this guy.
“We have the luxury right now, with Jackson being hurt, to DH (Miller). It just makes sense to put the guys who have been in the outfield — in the outfield for right now.
“At some point, we won’t have that luxury, and he’ll be out there. I don’t know when that’s going to be. It could be after off-day (Monday). I don’t know.”
Jackson is no longer walking with any signs of a limp and tested his sprained right ankle by riding a stationary bicycle for the first time since the injury occurred May 3 Houston.
“I’m getting my mobility back,” he said. “That’s always the toughest part when you have swelling. That’s what we’re working on today, trying to get some blood flowing.”
McClendon estimated Jackson will be healthy by the end of his 15-day stay on the disabled list but “he’s probably going to have to go out (on a rehab assignment) and get some at-bats.”
The relief corps sported black T-shirts prior to the game that contained a simple message and no illustration. In plain block letters:
Sound familiar? The T-shirts were provided by reliever Joe Beimel, who admitted: “I’m a real big Stone Cold Steve Austin fan.”
Austin is — does this need to be explained? — one of the biggest stars in the history of professional wrestling.
Triple-A Tacoma shortstop Ketel Marte gained a spot on Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after going 13-for-29 and boosting his average to .345 through 28 games.
The Hot Sheet seeks to identify which of the game’s top prospects are currently playing at a high level. Marte, 21, entered the season ranked No. 3 on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.
Baseball America noted: “He’s a skilled hitter with excellent bat control and defensive savvy in the middle of the diamond.
“The lack of thump limits his ceiling, and more plate patience would benefit his offensive game, but his value is in his ability to hit from both sides of the plate while playing a premium position.”
It was 29 years ago Saturday — May 9, 1986 — that Dick Williams became the sixth full-time manager in Mariners’ history when he signed a three-year contract as the replacement for Chuck Cottier.
Williams went 159-192 before getting fired on June 5, 1988, which marked the end of his 22-year managerial career. He managed six clubs and won four pennants and two World Series.
Despite his lack of success in Seattle, Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. He died in 2011 at age 82.
Oakland promoted right-handed pitcher Angel Castro from Triple-A Nashville prior to the game after clearing space on its 25-man roster by optioning right-hander R.J. Alvarez to Nashville, and on its 40-man roster by designating outfielder Alex Hassan for assignment…Once-again Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton hit a three-run homer against Mariners minor-leaguer Zack Littell in an extended spring training game.
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) will face Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn (1-2, 4.33).
You can see the game on Root Sports and hear it on 710 ESPN.