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March 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM

Tom Wilhelmsen makes the team; Franklin Gutierrez to go on the 15-day disabled list

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NOTE 12:08 p.m.: Not going to be at today’s game. Making final preparations to fly out of here, as are the other writers. Larry Stone will be joining the team in Los Angeles, while I will be on the season-opening road trip. We will have Geoff Baker Live! today at 6:30 p.m. PT.
The Mariners have outrighted Cesar Jimenez to Class AAA, allowing Tom Wilhelmsen to be added to the bullpen.
What a comeback story. And now, it continues in Seattle, where Josh Lueke and Aaron Laffey were also told today they’ll be heading north.
Jimenez cleared waivers and will join AAA Tacoma.
As for the rest of the roster, Franklin Gutierrez is going to be placed on the 15-day disabled list, which will allow the rest of the roster to be set. The plan, for now, is to add Ryan Langerhans and Luis Rodriguez to the team.
We discussed Rodriguez on yesterday’s Geoff Baker Live! with post-game comments from manager Eric Wedge that appeared to show the Mariners were sticking in-house with their Josh Wilson replacement.
Mauricio Robles will go on the 60-day DL to free up the final non-roster spot.
The Mariners won’t make the DL moves until they absolutely have to at some point tomorrow, which is why they haven’t officially announced Langerhans and Rodriguez. There is also the possibility that a trade, or waiver wire move could come up in the next 24 hours or so.
But for now, GM Jack Zduriencik says there is nothing imminent in the works.
That means. unless something pops up, your roster is set.

The Jimenez spot will go to one of Langerhans or Rodriguez, while the Robles spot would go to the other. I’d thought, erroneously, that Gutierrez would have to wait at least 10 days from the start of the season to be activated, but Zduriencik said it could be back-dated and he’d be eligible to play by April 6.
Not happening. As Zduriencik pointed out, they have to get Gutierrez in playing shape first. Mid-month would seem more realistic.
No, the M’s still do not know what is causing Gutierrez’s stomach woes. They’ve eliminated a lot of potential causes, but still have not pinpointed the actual problem. Gutierrez did work out again today and is feeling stronger. He’s going to have to manage whatever it is for now.
The Wilhelmsen addition is obviously the show-stopping story of the morning.
Zduriencik signed Wilhelmsen after a 15-minute tryout in spring training a year ago (photo below). At the time. he’d been out of affiliated baseball for six years and was coming off a brief stint with the Tucson Toros independent team.
“He was always a talented kid,” Zduriencik said. “You look back at the first year he competed, in the Midwest League, he was an all-star way back when. It is kind of remarkable, with the length of time he’s been off, to accomplish what he has accomplished.”
Wilhelmsen was suspended for the entire 2004 season after his one and only campaign in the the Milwaukee Brewers system. He’d tested positive twice for using marijuana and the Brewers worried about the then-19-year-old’s immaturity.
After his suspension, Wilhelmsen, feeling burned out by baseball, filed his retirement papers. He spent years working as a bartender at The Hut in his hometown of Tucson, using the money he earned to explore parts of the U.S. and Europe with a backpack. Then, one morning, he looked out on the horizon and decided he might have wasted his God-given baseball talent and the chance to do more with his life. He promptly quit smoking, got serious and tried to get back into the game.
That he did. After a stint in the lower rungs of Class A last year, he bartended a bit this winter after a strong Arizona Fall League got him put on the 40-man roster and garnered him an invite to spring training. The rest, though, is a quantum leap.

Looking back, it was eight days ago when we first got the feeling that Wilhelmsen could make the ballclub.
Here is what we wrote:
Looking at the remaining arms, there’s one that jumps out at you as fitting that description.
Tom Wilhelmsen. He of the 97 mph gas and a six-year rest period with which he’s conserved some bullets.
Add him to the roster and you have the ability to throw plenty of late-inning heat at opponents between Wilhelmsen, Lueke and League.
Is it a perfect bullpen? Nope. I’m not sure it’s even a good bullpen. But with Wilhelmsen, you make the best of a very difficult roster situation. At least, that’s how I see it.

And that’s how Zduriencik apparently saw it when we spoke to him today. He spoke of Wilhelmsen’s “live arm” and the value it has. He spoke of how the fact Wilhelmsen got to rest the arm for all of those years likely helped him conserve some of that strength he now shows.
Zduriencik was impressed not only with Wilhelmsen’s one-inning stints. But his ability to go multiple frames as well.
For now, the plan is to use Wilhelmsen as a reliever. Zduriencik did not rule out Wilhelmsen eventually returning to a starting role at some point. But it’s tough not to fall in love with that arm as a bullpen tool for now. And that’s just what this is: a “for now” move.
Down the road? As Zduriencik said, he’ll see where it takes the pitcher.
But for now, at least, even if Wilhelmsen’s career lasts just one more inning, what a journey it’s been.
if you missed yesterday’s Geoff Baker Live! we showed you footage of Wedge commenting on his new Michael Pineda-inclusive starting rotation. One viewer asked for my predictions on division and World Series winners. Here they are, hot off the presses. I guarantee you at least one will be wrong. Another viewer asked me whether I think that, if Michael Saunders makes the team out of spring training, it will be his final chance to show the M’s something. And yes, even though he’s had a well-behaved, productive spring, folks are still wondering what my “over-under” is for a Milton Bradley outburst. Here’s the answer I gave to that.
Here’s Part II of Geoff Baker Live! from yesterday after we got things started up once again following the internet knockout.

And finally, after that, we had Part III, where we ended the show with a flurry.



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