Friday notes: Back to closer by committee for Mariners
By Shannon Drayer
I don’t think anyone was surprised when acting manager Robby Thompson said before the Mariners’ series opener with the Orioles that he would be going with matchups at the end of the game. In other words, closer by committee.
While Tom Wilhelmsen had never been officially re-named the closer he had converted eight straight saves, although a number of them were rocky affairs.
Rocky does not begin to describe what we saw Thursday night in Boston. For Thompson, it is not a question of mechanics with Wilhelmsen.
“He’s pitching with a little bit of a lack of confidence,” Thompson said before the game. “He’s not pounding the strike zone to get to his breaking ball, to get to the changeup.”
Wilhelmsen threw four straight fastballs to the first batter he faced Thursday night, none of them for strikes. He has issued nine base on balls in his last 10 outings. That simply can’t happen, according to Thompson.
“You can’t give any free passes in the ninth inning. That’s like giving that team four or five outs in an inning. You just can’t get away with that,” he said.
Thompson expressed confidence that Wilhelmsen would find his way back to the closer role but at this point of the season you have to wonder. Just as answers need to be found with the offense for the future, answers need to be found in the pen as well. More importantly, wins need to be preserved now.
One quick note: Thompson commented briefly on the bullpen signaling incident Thursday night in Boston and said that he believes he was in the right.
“As soon as I pointed, he didn’t give me time (to signal which pitcher he wanted),” he said. “I think I was in the right. I really do.”
It looks like he was. No one has been able to find anywhere in the rules where it says that the umpire must go with the first move from the manager. The reliever coming in is not official until his name is written down by the home plate umpire. As Thompson pointed with his left arm then immediately went to his right it is hard to believe the umpire would have had time to write a name down.
A very strange episode to say the least but it appears that Thompson truly did nothing wrong.