By Shannon Drayer
HOUSTON – Sunday is the first day clubs can expand their rosters and the Mariners, preferring to wait until Tacoma’s season is over, called up just one player, reliever Tom Wilhelmsen.
By looking at the numbers it would be a stretch to say that Wilhelmsen figured things out while in Triple-A, as he gave up 14 earned runs in 12 innings pitched for an ERA of 10.50. What did Wilhelmsen take from this?
“I guess if I am working on throwing strikes, the numbers show I was good at throwing strikes because they were hitting them, so I was successful in doing what I was supposed to be doing,” he answered.
Every player deals with struggles in a different manner, but an answer like that is a little jolting (even if humor was intended) from a person you may depend on to close games for you.
According to manager Eric Wedge, Wilhelmsen will get the opportunity to get work, but most likely not in save situations the remainder of the way. Despite the struggles at Triple-A, Wedge believes Wilhemsen can get back on track.
“We have seen him come up here before and do well. Even better than in the minor leagues,” Wedge noted. “So hopefully he can flip that switch again. I do feel strongly he is going to be a part of this. In what role, I don’t know. He has too big an arm, too much experience. He has had too much success up here. I am hoping that all these trials he is going through ultimately help him be a more complete guy because he has seen both sides of it.”
Wedge can use another right-hander in the bullpen as Brandon Maurer is limited because of his role, and he would like to back off Yoervis Medina some. Along those lines, Medina, who usually pitches in winter ball in Venezuela, will not be allowed to do so this year.
More call-ups are expected in the next two days. Mike Zunino will join the club Monday in Kansas City and is scheduled to catch Felix Hernandez on Monday. More players will arrive after the Rainiers’ final game Monday.
One righty that Wedge has been leaning on more and more recently is Carter Capps, who quietly appears to be taking a step forward. Since his return to the big club, opponents are hitting .255 with an OPS of .639, as opposed to the .318/.933 he put up before being sent down. Much smaller sample size, of course, but Capps has made an adjustment to his delivery and has been more effective since.
One last note: Danny Hultzen is not expected to be one of those players called up, but Sunday is a big day for him as he is scheduled to pitch a couple of innings for the Rainiers. Hultzen, limited by shoulder troubles this season, has thrown just 33 2/3 innings this year. He will start in the Arizona Fall League in October, but the Mariners wanted to get him on a mound one last time before the season ended.