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Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

M's send Wilhelmsen to Tacoma to regain confidence

  • Tom Wilhelmsen is 0-3 with a 4.37 earned run average and 24 saves in 29 opportunities this season.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    Tom Wilhelmsen is 0-3 with a 4.37 earned run average and 24 saves in 29 opportunities this season.

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners want Tom Wilhelmsen to become a quality major league closer again -- and the path they've chosen is to let him start games for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
Wilhelmsen began his stint in Tacoma with a rough start Tuesday, giving up three runs over two innings.
Those happened to be the first two innings of the game, but acting Mariners manager Robby Thompson said that's just a matter of logistics -- the organization has no plans to convert him to a starting role.
"He can go out, he can throw, and then he's done," Thompson said. "He doesn't have to go down in the bullpen and sit around and wonder when his time is going to be. He'll be on a set schedule, and he won't have to worry about any of the other stuff other than working on what he's down there to work on."
And what do they want him to work on?
"We wanted him to go back down and regain his confidence, pinpoint that fastball -- having precise command with it like he's had in the past, so his secondary stuff can work off of that," Thompson said. "It's been tough for him. The idea is to get him down there and let him start for a couple of innings and really work on really command of the fastball. His other stuff will play once he gets command of that fastball on a consistent basis."
Wilhelmsen, 29, took over as the Mariners' closer in June 2012 and ended the season tied for seventh in the American League with 29 saves.
He picked up where he left off early this season, then wobbled, lost his closing job and regained it before finally losing his spot on the big league roster.
On the season he was 0-3 with a 4.37 earned run average and 24 saves in 29 opportunities. He had walked 18 batters in his last 231/3 innings before getting the word late Monday that he was being to Tacoma.
"He wasn't surprised by it," Thompson said. "I think he feels that he needs to go down there and get better and try to get back to where he was before, because over the last couple of month's there's really been inconsistency there when he takes the mound, no matter what the situation was."
Wilhelmsen's spot on the roster was taken by right-handed pitcher Carter Capps, who was recalled from Tacoma.
Capps began the season with Seattle but was sent down July 10 after going 2-2 with a 6.37 ERA. In 11 innings over seven appearances with the Rainiers he allowed two earned runs (1.64 ERA).
He turns 23 years old today, and on the eve of his birthday sounded excited about his second chance.
"It's going to be a little bit of a fresh feeling, hopefully," Capps said. "I obviously wasn't too happy with my performance last time. But now it's a fresh start, and hopefully I'll get things done."
Also Tuesday, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez returned from a rehab assignment in Tacoma. However he remains on the 15-day disabled list.
"He's still not 100 percent," Thompson said. "He still has a couple of good days and a couple of bad days."
Finally, the club released 34-year-old outfielder Jason Bay. He had appeared in 68 games, batting .204 with 11 home runs and 20 RBI. He had signed with Seattle as a free agent in December and was designated for assignment on July 29.

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