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This doesn’t come as any surprise, given what happened last night in Boston. But Tom Wilhelmsen is once again out as Mariners closer.
Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson confirmed as much this afternoon in his pregame media session.
“As of right now, maybe like we’ve done in the past, we’ll try to piece it together and match up,” Thompson said. “And we’ll go from there. Those games that are like that and even in closer games where we’ve got the lead, we’ve got to try to find a way to win that ballgame.”
Thompson suggested Wilhelmsen’s struggles are more mental than mechanical.
“For me, watching him, he’s pitching with a little bit of a lack of confidence for me and he’s not pounding the strike zone,” Thompson said. “He’s not pounding it with fastballs like he did in the past, to get to his breaking ball, to get to that changeup.”
Instead, he’s been falling behind early and then not using his curveball as much. Thompson suggested that pitchers who keep falling behind in the count with their fastball will tend to be more reluctant to throw their curve if it has to be for a strike and can’t be wasted out of the zone.
And that’s a problem.
“When you’re talking about that ninth inning and you’re trying to get those last three outs, you can’t give any free passes,” Thompson added. “That’s like giving that team four or five outs in an inning and you just can’t get away with that.”
Thompson held a closed-door team meeting before batting practice to remind his players how well they’d been doing of late.
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“We want to make sure that we forget about it, yet learn from any mistakes and move forward,” he said. That was, to put it lightly, a huge loss. With that lead and all and losing it in the ninth inning. And that’s obvious.
“But with that being said, this is a game to be played by men. It’s a man’s game and it’s a tough game to play through 162 games and go through all the ups and downs. Not only as pitchers and position players, but the wins and losses and how we handle it.
“I just want to make sure these guys realize that we’ve been playing good baseball. Don’t forget that. We’ve been in games and obviously were ahead yesterday and we didn’t get it done. We didn’t complete the game. We’ve got to continue to get to that point and then complete the game.”
Thompson also said he’d looked at video of how he signaled for a pitching change in the ninth inning and is satisfied he acted appropriately. Thompson was trying to bring right-hander Yoervis Medina in to face Shane Victorino, but the umpires ruled that he’d signaled with his left hand and had to use southpaw Oliver Perez instead.
“I went back like I said I was going to and looked at it and it was basically what I thought I did,” Thompson said. “I pointed at the bullpen (with his left hand) and I was going to go to my right arm for the right-hander and as soon as I pointed, he didn’t give me time. The second base umpire (Chris Conroy) turned around and said ‘the lefty’. And I said ‘No, I don’t want the lefty. I was pointing to the bullpen and we’re going to go with the right-hander. (Crew chief) Gary Darling came over and argued and said that it was not the case.
“If it was to be done again, I think I was in the right. I really do.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters he thought the umpires’ decision was more of a technicality and that he would not have argued had the Mariners been allowed to use Medina right away.
Thompson said he’d spoken with manager Eric Wedge today and received numerous texts from baseball people he knows. He declined to reveal what they said, but left the impression it was all supportive of what he’d done.