SEATTLE -- A few things have changed since Tom Wilhelmsen was sent down to Double-A Jackson on May 17, a fact it didn't take long for the 27-year-old to recognize as he reintroduced himself to the Mariners' clubhouse Tuesday after being recalled from the Minor Leagues.
"There are a lot of new people here," Wilhelmsen said. "I was going around today, 'Hi, I'm Tom. I'm a Sagittarius,' and all that."
Wilhelmsen was recalled to fill the void created by the trading of Doug Fister, Erik Bedard and David Pauley last weekend, which left the Mariners' roster at 24. Since Wilhelmsen's departure, the club has undergone a significant youth movement with the arrival of fellow rookies Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Greg Halman and Blake Beavan, and now the trade for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush.
Meeting new people has never been a problem for Wilhelmsen, who worked as a bartender in Tucson, Ariz., for several years while he was out of baseball from 2006-09.
Wilhelmsen was an interesting story when he first made the Mariners this spring, having never pitched above Class A ball when he cracked the club's 25-man Opening Day roster.
But now he'd like to do more than he showed in his first stint with Seattle, when he posted a 5.59 ERA in eight appearances out of the bullpen before getting optioned to Jackson.
The right-hander will return to the 'pen after working as a starter in Double-A, according to manager Eric Wedge. He fills the opening on the 25-man roster created by Sunday's trade of Bedard.
Wedge said the next spot start might be Aug. 23, when the Mariners are scheduled for a doubleheader in Cleveland, so the plan is for Wilhelmsen to resume a reliever role for now.
"We have to be careful with his innings," Wedge said. "We had him start for a while. Now we'll go from here."
Wilhelmsen went 4-5 in Jackson with a 5.49 ERA in 14 games, including 12 starts. He said the experience was beneficial, particularly given his long absence from the game and relative inexperience above Class A.
"It went well," he said. "It gave me more opportunities to work on the pitches I needed to work on. Changeups, locating my fastball. I enjoyed it and it's still a work in progress, but much better now than when I left. I liked it."
But, no, he hadn't given up on his dream of returning to the Majors after his brief taste at the start of this season.
"Yeah, I was hoping," he said. "In the back of my mind it was always a thought. You've got to set your goals, you know?"
Pineda to get extra rest between select starts
SEATTLE -- Prized rookie Michael Pineda will get a nine-day break between starts before his next outing as the Mariners opted to juggle their rotation to allow the 22-year-old some down time.
The young right-hander has pitched 130 innings over 21 starts and is on pace for 195 innings, well beyond the career-high 139 1/3 he threw last year in the Minor Leagues. So the club will be cautious with him in the final two months, holding him out now until next Tuesday in Texas.
Pineda allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 innings in his last start Saturday against the Rays.
"We'll pick spots [to rest him]," manager Eric Wedge said Tuesday. "A day here, two days there, that type of deal where we can spread it out a little more. This will be one of his more lengthy breaks."
Wedge declined to reveal an innings limit for the season, however.
"We have something in mind, nothing we want to go public with," said Wedge. "But we have an idea of where we'd like him to end up, and I'm confident that's where he'll end up with the plan we have in place.
"As important as anything is for him to pitch through September. What we don't want to do is have to shut him down early. We want him to pitch through September so he has that repetition and experience and can work himself into a normal big league offseason routine."
The Mariners have four straight Thursdays off in August, so they will be able to give all their pitchers an extra day where needed. But they're using the first Thursday off-day to keep the other starters on a five-day schedule and push Pineda to the back of the rotation to give him the extra time.
The planned rotation now calls for Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan and Felix Hernandez to throw in Anaheim this Friday-Sunday, with Charlie Furbush, Pineda and Vargas then throwing in Texas on the following series.
Nagging hip flexor sends Figgins to DL
SEATTLE -- Mariners third baseman Chone Figgins was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday's game against Oakland, with rookie Kyle Seager recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take his place.
Figgins was taken out of Monday's game in the third inning after aggravating a hip flexor that had been nagging him in recent days.
Figgins said the muscle began bothering him over the weekend when he played all three games against Tampa Bay, then got worse on a play in the first inning Monday night against the A's.
"It doesn't feel bad enough to where I can't play, it's just my legs are part of my game, especially on defense at third," he said after Monday's 8-4 win. "You need to be able to move."
Figgins said he'd had similar problems a couple months ago, "but it got better, because I wasn't playing."
This has been a trying season for the 33-year-old infielder. He's hitting just .188, though he'd shown modest signs of life recently with a four-game hitting streak that included a single and run scored in the first inning Monday.
"I had been hitting the ball better before, then they decided to stop playing me," Figgins said. "I told myself to stick with my same approach and I've been doing pretty well, I just haven't been in much."
Now he'll be off at least 15 days, with Seager rejoining the team for his second stint. Seager hit just .136 (3-for-22) in seven games with the Mariners in July, but the 23-year-old was batting .387 in 106 at-bats at Tacoma since his midseason promotion.
Seager has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games since returning to Tacoma, batting .321 (17-for-53) with 10 runs scored, one home run and five RBIs.
With Adam Kennedy tailing off recently and the club taking a good look at its young prospects, Seager could get more opportunities now. Kennedy has hit just .189 (17-for-90) since June 29, as his average has dipped to .245.