03/28/11 6:05 PM ET
Long shot Wilhelmsen still hanging around
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
The Mariners sent three veteran relievers down to their Minor League camp over the weekend, with Wilhelmsen one of two candidates fighting for the final relief roles available. At this point, it appears the final spot will go to either Wilhelmsen or left-hander Cesar Jimenez, who is on the 40-man roster, but has not had a good spring.
Wilhelmsen was out of baseball for five years before signing with Seattle last year. But while he posted good numbers in Rookie League ball and then with Everett and Clinton in Class A, nobody expected he could make the leap to the Major Leagues this spring.
"I am very excited," Wilhelmsen said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I'm making it tough for them. All I can do is throw my best and keep the ball low."
The hard-throwing right-hander ignored a little flap in his eighth-inning appearance Sunday, when Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was ejected shortly after he took the mound, then took a long time clearing out of the dugout while the game ground to a halt.
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"It didn't affect me too much," said Wilhelmsen, who promptly pitched a 1-2-3 frame to lower his spring ERA to 2.70. "It just gave me a little more time to control my breathing. I knew what was going on, but I didn't know it was Beltre. He just took his sweet time."
Manager Eric Wedge said it was more proof of the youngster's poise.
"You've got to like his stuff, you've got to like his arm," Wedge said. "That was another test today with whatever that was going on when he was out there. Having to wait around a little bit, and keep himself together and refocus and go out and pitch ... it's not your prototypical situation, but still something he had to overcome, and he did."
Said Wilhelmsen: "I've never dealt with anything like that before, but it wasn't anything big or serious. I just came back in and threw strikes."
Wilhelmsen said his changeup has improved dramatically this spring, which keeps hitters from being able to sit on his upper-90s fastball.
"All last year I threw the change maybe a total of a dozen times. I had no confidence in it," he said. "I played in the Fall League and rarely threw it then. But early in camp it was just starting to come, and the past few outings it's really taken hold of itself."
Relievers Ray, Wright added to 40-man roster
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran relievers Chris Ray and Jamey Wright, two non-roster invitees on Minor League deals, were added to the Mariners 40-man roster Monday, in moves that assure they'll be part of the club's 25-man roster to start the season.
Ray, 29, is the former closer for the Orioles who pitched for the Giants and Rangers last year. He'll be one of Seattle's late-inning candidates. Wright, 36, is a 15-year Major League veteran who threw well for the Mariners after joining the team in midseason last year.
Wright has thrown 11 scoreless innings in 10 appearances this spring, allowing just four hits and one walk, while striking out eight.
The Oklahoma native said former pitching coach Rick Adair suggested he speed up his delivery and change some mechanics when he got to Seattle last year, and the results have been noticeable. He posted a 3.41 ERA in 28 appearances, well below his career 5.00 mark.
"My command was better, my stuff was better and I just tried doing the same things coming in this year, and that's pretty much what I've done," Wright said. "Things have seemed to click. It's been probably the best camp I've ever had as far as throwing the ball."
Wright gives the club a veteran presence to help work with youngsters like Josh Lueke and Tom Wilhelmsen in an evolving bullpen.
"With the camp I've had, I would have been shocked had it not happened, but nonetheless, it's exciting when you get the news," Wright said after calling his wife and dad, and texting his sisters.
Ray was going through the same process across the clubhouse. He's put up a 3.86 ERA in seven appearances, and clearly has been targeted as one of the late-inning relievers because of his experience closing games in Baltimore, but that didn't lessen the joy of finding out he'd earned a roster spot.
"It's nice. You come in every year just trying to make the team," said Ray. "I don't take anything for granted. I'm looking forward to the start of the season, for sure. It's nice not to be in limbo anymore."
The Mariners likely will add at least two more non-roster players -- infielder Adam Kennedy and outfielder Ryan Langerhans -- but will need to clear space as the 40-man roster is now full.
Rosters must be finalized by Thursday morning.
Mariners finalize starting rotation
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge finalized his pitching rotation Monday, and the group includes top prospect Michael Pineda, who'll be Seattle's No. 5 starter to open the season.
The rotation will be Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard and the 22-year-old Pineda, who erased any doubts about his readiness with a strong spring, in which the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder posted a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings, with 15 strikeouts.
"It was wide open coming in," Wedge said. "You saw what I saw, a guy that was very consistent and kept getting better. And as we lengthened him out, he handled that very well. There were situations we thought he handled very well that he'll have to go through in the course of the regular season. All that enters into it."
There weren't any surprises in the announcement, given the way Spring Training has played out, but Wedge waited until starting contender Luke French was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday before making everything official.
Hernandez will make his fourth Opening Day start on Friday in Oakland, followed by Vargas on Saturday and Fister in Sunday afternoon's series finale.
Bedard, making his first regular-season start in 18 months, will take the mound Monday at Texas, and Pineda will pitch Tuesday against the Rangers.
That sets up Hernandez to make his second start in the Rangers' finale, with Vargas to get the home opener on Friday, April 8 against the Indians at Safeco Field.
"I see five guys that are going to go out there and give us a chance to win ballgames," said Wedge. "Obviously it starts with Felix, and you can't do any better than that. You've got to be really pleased with the way the other four guys have thrown the ball this spring as well."
The Mariners will be cautious with Pineda, but Wedge said he's not worried about the rookie's workload at this point.
"Any young pitcher, you have to keep a close eye on," Wedge said. "But he's big, he's strong, he's built up. Obviously no different than anybody else, we'll work off of him."