Live: Mariners vs. Twins

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Why Walker was sent down, and Wilhelmsen as a starter?

The Mariners shuffled their pitching staff around before Wednesday’s game.

  • They optioned pitcher Taijuan Walker to Class AAA Tacoma and recalled reliever Stephen Pryor.
  • They named reliever Tom Wilhelmsen Thursday’s starter. He fills the spot originally slated for Felix Hernandez, who manager Lloyd McClendon moved back so he could start Friday against the A’s.
  • And the Mariners set their rotation for the weekend series against the division-leading A’s: Hernandez on Friday, Hisashi Iwakuma on Saturday and Chris Young on Sunday. That allows Iwakuma and Hernandez to start back-to-back out of the All-Star break.

The move to send Walker to Tacoma is simple, McClendon said. It allows Walker to keep making starts during the All-Star break. He was in line to start against the A’s this weekend, but McClendon opted to go with his more experienced pitchers, meaning Walker wouldn’t have pitched in the majors again until after the All-Star break.

He will make two starts in Tacoma before rejoining the Mariners after the All-Star break. McClendon said Walker is slotted to start against the Mets in Seattle’s second series after the All-Star break.

“It just makes sense,” McClendon said.

McClendon opted to start Wilhelmsen on Thursday against the Twins in part because Wilhelmsen has worked as the Mariners’ long reliever. Wilhelmsen has thrown three innings three times this season, all in the last month.

But McClendon said the idea of Wilhelmsen as a starter has also intrigued him.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you I hadn’t thought about it,” McClendon said. “He’s been impressive in the long role. It’s certainly intriguing and something that’s been on my mind.”

When McClendon was asked if he meant Wilhelmsen potentially starting going forward, he said it’s a “possibility.”

McClendon said Wilhelmsen’s power arm and his success in the long-reliever role makes him intriguing as a starter. He said he’s hoping to get three or four innings out of him on Thursday.

Wilhelmsen, who has a 2.49 ERA this season, was Seattle’s closer for parts of the last two seasons, but he also started 43 games in the in the minors, including posting a 5.49 ERA in 12 games for Class AA Jackson.

“If I can recall correctly,” Wilhelmsen said, “Jackson didn’t go so well so I’m probably not going to use anything from Jackson.”

Pryor returns to the Mariners for the first time since last season. He is recovering from a lat injury suffered last season. Pryor routinely threw in the high-90s before his injury, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to touch triple digits on the radar gun.

But he is still trying to regain his velocity, although McClendon said he pitched in the mid-90s in Tacoma.

“He’s not quite where he needs to be, but he’s healthy and throwing good,” McClendon said. “Command has been good. All signs point to him being on the road to being successful again.”

Iwakuma, then Felix: When the Mariners return from the All-Star break, McClendon said Iwakuma is likely to start the first game in Anaheim while Hernandez will start the next game. That’s because Hernandez will likely start the All-Star game, especially with the news Wednesday that Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka headed to the DL. If it happens, it will be the first time Hernandez has started in the All-Star game.

View full post on The Seattle Times: Mariners Blog

AL West Notes: Williams, Astros, Angels, Ramirez

Recently-released Astros hurler Jerome Williams has already drawn inquiries from eight clubs, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. That does not include the Twins, he notes. Williams’ agent tells MLBTR’s Zach Links (Twitter link) that he believes the veteran righty will get a chance to start on a major league club.

Here’s more from the AL West:

  • The Astros are interested in upgrading the club’s bullpen in both the short and long-term, reports’s Brian McTaggart. Owner Jim Crane said that the team’s relief corps has cost the club ballgames, indicating that he hopes to find some solutions during the current season. Nevertheless, any moves would keep an eye firmly on the future: “We’re always looking more long term,” he said, “but we want to try to establish a nucleus this year and win a lot more ballgames than we did last year.”
  • Of course, the Angels‘ bullpen needs are on a much shorter fuse. Even after making several recent acquisitions, club GM Jerry Dipoto says that the team is still browsing the market, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Dipoto hopes to form a late-inning nucleus that can record the “last nine outs” of a game. “We will continue to look for a guy who can join that group,” he said.
  • Multiple teams have expressed interest in Mariners righty Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has not had sustained success at the major league level, but does offer plenty of youth and team control. Ramirez would seem to make a useful trade chip in a lower-level deal for Seattle, or as a part of a package in a larger swap.

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