07/25/12 3:35 PM ET
Wilhelmsen opts to 'change' up repertoire
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Most closers are happy to have two strikeout pitches, and Wilhelmsen has long been comfortable throwing his wicked curveball, even in full-count situations.
Wilhelmsen struck out the Rays' Hideki Matsui with his changeup on Saturday at St. Petersburg, then teased the Yankees with it a time or two during Tuesday's 4-2 win while notching his 11th save since replacing Brandon League as Seattle's closer in June.
"I'm kind of forcing myself to do that," Wilhelmsen said of the changeup. "I'm going to keep throwing it and wait until I can throw that for a strike whenever I want. I want something else [to throw] to lefties. That's what we're working with right now."
Manager Eric Wedge said the addition of the change has surprised him as well.
"I'd seen him mix it in from time to time, but not in those types of situations," Wedge said. "The Matsui changeup in Tampa, that was the first one that stuck out to me. He's a confident guy. He pitches with confidence and conviction and throws every pitch with that. That's what you're seeing with the changeup. It just adds to his arsenal."
Free of headaches, Gutierrez cleared to work out
SEATTLE -- The latest medical tests on Franklin Gutierrez's concussion didn't reveal any lingering issues, and the Mariners center fielder has been cleared to return to physical activity on Wednesday, manager Eric Wedge said.
Gutierrez, 29, has been sidelined for 24 days since being struck on the side of the head by a pickoff throw to first from Boston's Franklin Morales on June 29. Gutierrez's attempted return was slowed by ongoing headaches last week while he was taking batting practice and working out with the club on its road trip.
Wedge said Gutierrez hasn't had any headaches for several days.
"All the tests were negative, which is a big deal, both personally and professionally," Wedge said. "He's going to start getting back to exercising and doing some things physical today. Obviously, the next step beyond that is to get back into baseball activity. He's had a couple, three days with no headaches. That's a good sign. We'll see how he does now with activity."
Gutierrez has played just 13 games this season, having missed the first two months of the year with a partially torn right pectoral muscle that occurred early in Spring Training.
No letting up for Smoak in return to Triple-A
SEATTLE -- First baseman Justin Smoak went 1-for-3 with a walk on Tuesday in his return to Triple-A Tacoma, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the most important thing for the youngster is that he's jumped immediately into his work after getting demoted following Monday night's 4-1 loss to the Yankees.
Major League players have three days to report to the Minors when they are sent down, but Smoak didn't want to wait.
"I didn't tell him to report there yesterday; he chose to go down there," said Wedge. "I told him they were playing at home. That's all I said. I even talked to [manager Darren Brown] about that: 'You let me know if he shows up or not, and if not, I get that.' I would have been fine with that, too.
"Nothing wrong with taking a break. But it didn't surprise me he showed up there. He was the first one there and got it going."
Smoak was hitting .189 at the time of his demotion, with 38 RBIs and a team-high 13 home runs. Wedge just wants to see him regain his batting stroke and confidence.
"For me, it's not about performance early on," Wedge said. "Whether he struck out three times or hit three home runs last night, that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is he's down there, he's working and he's going to work. He's a worker. The intangibles are there. He's a tough kid. That's why I've got every reason to believe this guy is going to be in the middle of all this."
When the Mariners took the field on Wednesday, their only position player age 30 or over was shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, 31. The Yankees had just two position players under 30, Robinson Cano and Russell Martin, both of whom are 29.
"They've got an infield where everybody is making $20 million a year," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "That just didn't come by the wayside. They had to do certain things to get to that point. At one point in time, they were all young players, too. But that's what I'm saying. When it comes, it'll all come together. Because these kids will all grow together."
Left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left triceps, played catch on Tuesday and Wednesday as he starts his rehab program. Furbush said he's just throwing fastballs for now but feels fine at this point. He's not eligible to return until Aug. 4 at the earliest.
Since recording his first save on June 4, new Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen ranks third in the American League with 11 saves in the ensuing span. Going into Wednesday, he hadn't allowed an earned run in 13 1/3 innings during his 12 save opportunities, with opponents hitting .070 (3-for-43) with 15 strikeouts.
Tickets for Friday's Mariners Hall of Fame induction luncheon for Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson are sold out, but tickets do remain for Saturday afternoon's game, when the two will be formally inducted in a ceremony prior to the 1:10 p.m. PT first pitch. The pregame ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m.