8/20/2013 10:16 P.M. ET
Mariners relying on rookies in the bullpen
By Jeff Kirshman / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Let's just say this isn't the bullpen Seattle expected to have at the start of the season.
The Mariners' Opening Day closer, Tom Wilhelmsen, was demoted to the Minor Leagues on Aug. 6 because of ineffectiveness, and the club has since turned to Danny Farquhar, a rookie, to help solidify the ninth-inning role.
"We didn't really anticipate having four right-handed rookies in the bullpen right now, one of them being your setup man and one is your closer," active manager Robby Thompson said. "That's not really how we thought we'd be looking at it right now, but those are the things that happen.
"You don't know in this game what changes you're going to be faced with, whether it be in the bullpen, starting pitching or, for that matter, position players."
One of those rookies is Carter Capps who served up Monday's walk-off home run to Oakland's Brandon Moss, though Thompson said the homer was more of a testament to Moss' abilities than a mistake by Capps.
"That's a spot that he really can handle," Thompson said of Moss. "When he did hit it, I think he made a comment in the paper about it that he wasn't quite sure that it was going to get out. The ball doesn't carry very well at night. When he hit it, I think we were a little bit surprised that it did get out, but he back spun it and the ball continued to carry and [center fielder Dustin] Ackley ran out of room."
Farquhar, meanwhile, has converted seven of eight save opportunities since moving in the closer's role. He ranks fifth among American League relievers with 13.39 strikeouts per nine innings, and earlier in the month had 14 2/3-inning scoreless streak.
Thompson said the team still hopes Wilhelmsen can earn a trip back to Seattle. Wilhelmsen converted 11 consecutive saves with a 0.41 ERA through the first seven weeks of the season before a rough stretch led to his demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
"He understands what he's got to do and he's working on doing that," Thompson said. "We sure hope to have him in September, if not sooner."
Ackley starting to hit stride at the plate
OAKLAND -- After struggling in the first half of the season, Dustin Ackley is finally performing the way Seattle hoped he would when it chose him with the second-overall pick of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Ackley is batting .321 in 22 games since the All-Star break and .279 since he was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on June 25.
"I feel like ever since I came back up, I felt a lot better from a hitting standpoint," Ackley said. "I've had better at-bats than I've had in a long time."
Seattle has converted Ackley from a second baseman into an outfielder, and the Mariners are 17-10 in his 27 starts in center field, but his bat continues to be his strongest asset.
He credited a less passive approach and a better mindset to his recent upswing at the plate.
"I think the toughest part about this sport is that aspect of just trusting what you're doing and knowing every day that you're doing the right things and you're working hard," Ackley said. "In other sports you see the results right away, as opposed to baseball, where it might take five days before you hit a line drive that finds a hole or hit a ball in the gap.
"When you line out, you might start thinking, 'Oh, should I have been doing this, should I have been doing that?' But I think when you start not thinking and whatever happens, happens, control what you can control, things start to work out."
Thompson ready to ease Wedge's return
OAKLAND -- In an attempt to ease Eric Wedge's return to the skipper's role, acting manager Robby Thompson expects to meet with Wedge during the Mariners' off-day Thursday before Wedge rejoins the team on Friday.
"I'm going to talk after batting practice with him and see if we can't maybe use a bit of the off-day to just hang out a little bit and see what kind of plan that he would like to do," Thompson said before Tuesday's game against the A's. "I know that he wants to come back slowly, that he's been told that and he can't really jump in full bore. We'll work off each other just like we have in the past."
Thompson said he'll try to help limit Wedge's pregame responsibilities during the first handful of games. Wedge has been away since he had a mild stroke before a home game on July 22.
"I'm sure that he's been thinking a lot about it and I'm sure that he'll come up with a pretty good game plan with the medical side of things and what they've recommended," Thompson said.
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.