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March 22, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Tom Wilhelmsen, others excel as Mariners romp to victory

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NOTE: If you missed Geoff Baker Live! today, we updated you on the Brendan Ryan-Jack Wilson position flip and gave you video interviews with both. Here’s the Ryan clip followed by the Wilson one. We also spoke to manager Eric Wedge and asked whether Wilson’s health history played any factor in the decision to move him to second base. Here’s my take on why the Mariners really did this.
The Mariners broke this one open in the sixth and never looked back, cruising to a 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. Among the highlights today was a seventh inning by Tom Wilhelmsen in which he retired the side on three swinging strikeouts
“He’s been throwing the ball well,” Wedge said. “He’s still one you want to, like a lot of our guys, he’s got to work ahead and stay ahead better. He’s got a live arm and his secondary stuff is good. We’re getting to the point in camp now where we want all of our guys to locate a little bit better, put hitters more on the defense and, like I said, work ahead and stay ahead. But I’ve been very impressed with him.”
I mentioned the other day that the longshot possibility of Wilhelmsen actually making the team was actually more in the realm of the probable because of the team’s roster situation. It’s still a longshot that Wilhelmsen makes it. He was playing rookie level ball last year, for crying out loud.
But he’s got that “live arm” that Wedge described and that can always fix a few things short-term while you work out the long-term kinks.
Plenty still would have to happen for Wilhelmsen to make it. The Mariners might add five non-roster players to their Opening Day squad, meaning you have to find spots for them. Some of you wrote in suggesting two additional spots could easily be found by getting rid of Josh Wilson and Mike Carp.
But I don’t take that suggestion as lightly as others do. For one thing, Wilson has major league value as a proven defender at multiple positions in a pinch. If the M’s took him off the 40-man, he’d be unlikely to pass through to Class AAA without getting claimed.
Wilson is a guy who could get you a piece in a late-spring trade and I would not be surprised to see the M’s attempt one. Of course, they don’t have great leverage, since other clubs expect the M’s to try to pass Wilson through waivers. But the M’s would not be seeking a five-player package here, just a piece. For teams needing infield depth, he might be worth giving something up for if you wanted your team at the front of the line to get your hands on Wilson.
As for Carp, yeah, I know. He doesn’t project to be a full-timer here. But two years running now, Carp has been one of the first guys the M’s have gone to from AAA when injuries hit. He provides that elusive depth in AAA that the M’s were claiming not too long ago they didn’t have.
So, to casually dismiss him as somebody easy to lose is, for me, a bit much. Even a AAAA guy has value. Ezequiel Carrera, dismissed by some as a AAAA outfielder last summer, still netted the M’s Russell Branyan for a few months.
That’s why I don’t like the idea of simply losing guys for nothing.
So, that’s where Wilhelmsen factors in and still has a slim chance to make the squad. He’s on the 40-man roster, so if the M’s felt they could only afford to clear four roster spots instead of five, they could add Wilhelmsen’s arm to the bullpen and jettison one of the non-roster candidates.
It’s a longshot, but not impossible for Wilhelmsen.

You look at the other guys vying fo late-inning bullpen roles and you don’t have too many jumping off the page at you.
Chris Ray has seen limited action this spring. He threw an inning today and got tagged for two runs in the ninth after a double and a home run.
As Wedge said, he wants to see guys starting to put it together now.
Wedge said he’s been impressed by the “presence” Wilhelmsen brings. When you start hearing that said about relievers still in the lower ranks of the minors, you know they might be up in the bigs sometime soon.
Shawn Kelley was talked about that way a lot two springs ago.
Now, it’s Wilhelmsen’s turn. He’s had a good spring. A great one. It’s why he’s still here. They aren’t just keeping him to fill out the daily roster. The team still isn’t completely sold on who will form the bullpen. Each day brings interesting results.
Wilhelmsen might last another 48 hours. Or maybe another week. Each day he isn’t cut is another step forward. As long as he’s still here and no one is running away with this bullpen race, his 97 mph arm is still a factor to consider.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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