By Andy Bixler The News Tribune
SEATTLE — With Felix Hernandez moved back one day in the rotation to face the Oakland Athletics on Friday, the Seattle Mariners had a hole to fill in the series finale Thursday against the Minnesota Twins.
They filled it Wednesday, when announced they’ll start right-handed pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen.
Wilhelmsen hasn’t been a regular starter at any level since 2011, when he was with Class AA Jackson. He did start two games in Tacoma in 2013, but both lasted less than two innings.
“He’s a power arm,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s got four quality pitches, and he’s thrived in that long roll. It’s interesting.”
Wilhelmsen, 30, has a 2.49 ERA over 47 innings this season. He hasn’t pitched more than three innings all season, which he has done twice, most recently in a 10-4 win June 30 at Houston.
Wilhemsen said he talked to McClendon about starting a few days ago, and told the manager he was more than up for it. He said he and McClendon also talked about him potentially moving him into a starting role, but that he’s going to treat Thursday like a regular night in the bullpen.
“I’m going to do everything we normally do, throw my pitches in the bullpen and head out,” Wilhelmsen said.
With Wilhelmsen likely to go only three or four innings, McClendon might have to reach into his bullpen early. Relief pitchers have thrown five innings or more 11 times this season, and have a 1.79 ERA in those games.
The Mariners also announced Hisashi Iwakuma will now start on Saturday, and Chris Young on Sunday. The A’s (57-33) have the best record in baseball, and many see the series as a litmus test for the Mariners.
But McClendon said he isn’t one of them, and that he isn’t making the moves to prove anything.
“It gives (Hernandez) an extra day, it gives me our best pitchers against our division rival, and also it sets things up for the second half,” he said. “I’m not putting that this is the series of the year.”