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September 27, 2011 at 10:57 PM

Tom Wilhelmsen looks like late-inning bet for 2012, shining again in a 7-0 loss

If you missed our season finale of Geoff Baker Live! be sure to catch the video replay above. Thanks to all who participated and to FX McRory’s for partnering with us.
Not much to report back on this outing. Blake Beavan will likely be in Seattle’s rotation next year, but not based off anything we saw tonight in a 7-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The M’s took the night off against Trevor Cahill and the Oakland bullpen after a three-run homer given up by Beavan in the first inning. That blast by Josh Willingham pretty much ended the game right there.
Oakland scored two more in the third and then Beavan hung a breaking ball that Scott Sizemore crushed for a two-run homer in the fifth. Prior to that blast, Beavan seemed to be doing better his final two innings, but it was already a bit too late for that.
The more exciting stuff to come out of this game involved Tom Wilhelmsen, who tossed a scoreless ninth while striking out two. So, in his last 13 games dating back to early August, Wilhelmsen has struck out 20 batters over 17 1 /3 innings and walked just one. He’s running an ERA of 1.04 during that stretch while holding opponents to a .119 batting average.
Not bad. In fact, that’s great. Great enough that the M’s have scrapped plans — at least for now — to make Wilhelmsen a starter.
Wilhelmsen had been a candidate to go to Venezuela for winter ball but told me he’s been given the rest of the winter off. If the team was going to have him start, he’d be headed someplace to build up his arm.
But with numbers like the ones he just posted, he now looks like next year’s set-up man for Brandon League. Or, if things get really interesting this winter, League’s successor in the event of a trade.


Wherever I go, I keep hearing whispers that the M’s will be spending some money this off-season. Now, without a “capital call” on owners — which hasn’t happened in over a decade — I’m not sure where the money will come from. But one way the team can free up payroll room is to jettison some redunadancies and League is set to earn roughly $5 million in arbitration.
Now, a 37-save closer for that relatively decent amount is nothing to sneeze at, especially if a team has designs on contending. So, a Wilhelmsen-League duo in the eighth and ninth is something that looms as possible.
Or, if the M’s decide they aren’t ready to take their shot, they could deal League at some point, get some players back, offset some salary and then go for it in 2013 or later.
Wilhelmsen’s emergence leads to all sorts of possibilities. He doesn’t look like the same guy who began the season here before being shipped to AA in May to work on starting.
“My focus has gone up and my jitters are gone,” Wilhelmsen said of this second go-around compared to his initial stint. “I’m not afraid.”
But hitters should be. This isn’t some late-season beat-up against AAA hitters. Wilhelmsen has done this for two solid months and you can’t fake a flamethrowing arm. There’s a reason the M’s keep running him out there. They want to know what they’ve got before this winter’s wheeling and dealing.
Right now, there’s a strong chance you’ll see Wilhelmsen pitching the eighth inning next April. And an outside chance he’ll work the ninth.

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