I can confirm that’s not Montreal native Geoff Baker waving the Canadian flag, but it seemed like half the country was at the ballpark tonight. It’s getting to be a regular occurrence when the Blue Jays come to town, and I’m told that today is a Canadian holiday, one that even some members of the Toronto press corps had a hard time naming. But this crowd (32,300) was even more raucous in support of the Blue Jays than normal, leading to this reaction from Justin Smoak:
“I’m not going to say what I want to say,’’ Smoak said. “I guess we’re as close to Canada as anybody else. It was a good crowd for a Monday night game. Good for them, I guess.”
The big news came after the game, when one-time closer Tom Wilhelmsen was packing his gear and receiving hugs from teammates. Wilhelmsen confirmed that he is headed for Class AAA Tacoma to try to regain the form that at one point this year allowed him to lock down the ninth inning.
Wilhelmsen, however, was removed from closing duties for the second time this year after a disastrous outing in Boston last Thursday in which he was charged with four runs without recording an out.
“I’m not throwing strikes; it makes sense,’’ a glum Wilhelmsen said of his demotion.
It was not known who will take Wilhelmsen’s place on the roster. Nor is it known if Wilhelmsen will try starting, as Geoff suggested today in a blog post.
The Mariners do conveniently have an open spot on their 40-man roster with Montero’s suspension, so they don’t have to be as cognizant of whether a player is already on the 40-man. So in addition to the stable of relievers who have already been up — Carter Capps, Hector Noesi, and Bobby LaFromboise most notably — that would open the list of candidates to the likes of Logan Bawcom, who leads the Rainiers with 18 saves, and lefty Brian Moran, who has 2.65 ERA in 40 games. I’ve already seen James Paxton’s name thrown out; he lasted just three innings in his last start, so that would surprise me.
Two pitchers at Double-A Jackson have been hot lately: Dominic Leone, just 21, who has pitched 7.1 innings over six games since coming up from High Desert and has allowed just two hits and no runs with nine strikeouts (this after putting up a 2.50 ERA in 29 games at hitter-friendly High Desert); and Carson Smith, who impressed in spring training and has a 0.77 ERA in his last 10 games. Overall, Smith has a 2.25 ERA in 37 games with Jackson, including 12 saves and a .203 opponents average. Capps had just one game above Double-A last year when the Mariners called him up on July 31, so there is some precedent for making this kind of jump. Leone’s really gaining notice as a rising prospect, but it would be an awfully quick rise for a guy who was just drafted last year — and in the 16th round, no less, out of Clemson, where he was Brad Miller‘s teammate in 2010 and 2011.