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Carter Capps returns and Tom Wilhelmsen to start?

By Shannon Drayer

As I reported last night on Twitter (and if you don’t follow me, you should @shannondrayer) the Mariners have sent reliever Tom Wilhelmsen down. The move was officially announced this morning with Wilhelmsen being optioned to Tacoma and reliever Carter Capps recalled to Seattle. There is a twist, however.

The Mariners are exploring the possibility of converting reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to a starter. (AP)

Wilhelmsen, who needed a map to be printed out for him last night as he had never been to Tacoma before, was put right into today’s 11:35 Rainiers game – as the starter. This does not mean he is being converted, however. The immediate thought is he needs to get innings to regain his command and work on all of his pitches. The door is open, though, to see where this goes.

Wilhelmsen was primarily a starter in the minor leagues, most recently starting 12 games for Jackson in 2011. The stuff was there but command was his issue. The bullpen seemed like a natural fit for him. Things have changed a bit since then. Obviously, he has picked up experience but he has also picked up a good changeup. It would appear that if he could get a better grasp on his command he would have the weapons to get hitters out as a starter.

It will be interesting to see where the Mariners and Wilhelmsen go with this. I like that they have made this move relatively quickly. By not defining it completely that gives Wilhelmsen the opportunity to get comfortable and go to work without the pressure of “you are going to be this or that.” Let’s see what he has got, explore all options.

As for the Capps move, in seven outings with the Rainiers he has put up a 1.64 ERA while giving up two earned runs, walking four and striking out nine. The walks very well may have something to do with the fact that he has been working on a new delivery. I spoke with pitching coach Carl Willis about this Saturday in Baltimore. Willis and the Mariners wanted Capps to get better direction to the plate and better angle on his ball. He had fallen into some bad habits while with the Mariners and was struggling to make the adjustment while with the big club, so he was sent down. According to Willis, Capps has been able to stick with the changes in his last few outings and he believes there may be a significant reward in that.

“I think what it is going to allow him to do is stay with the ball a little longer out front, and honestly his velocity has been good, not quite what we saw last year, but I think if he is able to do that we will see the velocity come back another mile or two per hour because he can finish the pitch a little better as opposed to getting so far across his body he can’t get to his release point in a direct line,” Willis said.

The biggest thing to look for with Capps is whether or not he can he get lefties out. That is what will determine if he is able to stick at the big-league level or not. When he left Seattle, lefties were hitting an alarming .351 off of him. In Tacoma, in a very limited sample, they were only hitting .222.

Interesting moves which we will learn more about later today.

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