In need of a starter for Thursday’s game against the Twins, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon announced Wednesday that Tom Wilhelmsen will get the call.
Wilhelmsen, 30, will be making his first career major-league start after spending the previous three seasons in bullpen primarily as a closer or set-up man.
But this season, “The Bartender” has been used extensively as a multiple-inning reliever by McClendon and it’s a role he has thrived in. In 33 appearances, Wilhelmsen has pitched 47 innings and allowed 13 earned runs on 30 hits and 22 walks for a 2.49 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He has tossed three innings in seven of his last 12 appearances and last worked Saturday, picking up the victory in the extra-inning contest against the White Sox.
McClendon gave the impression Wednesday that a move to starter could be something we see in store for Wilhelmsen in the future.
“I wouldn’t be honest if I tell you I hadn’t thought about it,” McClendon said. “He’s been impressive in the long role. It’s certainly intriguing and it’s something that has been on my mind.”
What makes Wilhelmsen so intriguing as a starter?
“Power arm. He’s got three or four quality pitches and he’s thrived in the long role. He seems to cherish it,” McClendon added.
The funny thing is, though, Wilhelmsen doesn’t seem to think that way.
“I don’t see myself as a starter,” Wilhelmsen said.
So while his manager has been mulling it over for awhile, Wilhelmsen said it’s something he has not given any thought to. He has started previously in his career, as most relievers have. Wilhelmsen made 12 starts with Jackson in 2010 in his first season back playing professional baseball after taking a six-year hiatus. He posted a 5.49 ERA in 60.2 innings and a 1.52 WHIP and was later called up to take a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen.
So will he use anything from that experience?
“If I can recall correctly, Jackson didn’t go so well so I’m probably not going to use anything from Jackson,” Wilhelmsen said, laughing.
Is he at least excited?
“Sure, yea I’m excited to get the opportunity, to say I started a major-league game,” Wilhelmsen said.
Wilhelmsen may not think so, but his performance in long relief this season has put the idea in McClendon’s head. Starting could be in his future.