Seattle Mariners

Tom Wilhelmsen returns to Mariners by agreeing to one-year deal

Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is back with the Mariners after agreeing to a one-year deal.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is back with the Mariners after agreeing to a one-year deal. AP

DETROIT — The bartender is back in the Mariners’ bullpen.

At least for now.

Right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, a one-time bartender, returned late Tuesday to Mariners by agreeing to a one-year deal less than a week after refusing a minor-league assignment by the Texas Rangers.

"I never wanted to leave in the first place," Wilhelmsen said. "So, yes, I’ve always wanted to be here. So when I heard there was interest (from the Mariners), this was at the top of my list."

Wilhelmsen, 32, joined the Mariners prior to Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. He spent the previous six years in the organization before a Nov. 16, 2015 trade sent him to Texas.

"There’s no doubt I was a little heartbroken when I got sent away," he said. "That’s the nature of the game. You move on from that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me (in Texas) and, ultimately, I want to be happy.

"And I was happy here in Seattle. So I’m even happier to be back."

Wilhelmsen hasn’t pitched since June 13 and is likely only to be used in an emergency over the next two days before the Mariners try to send him to Triple-A Tacoma to sharpen his game-readiness.

While Wilhelmsen has an option remaining, he has sufficient major-league service to require the Mariners to send him through optional waivers in order to assign him to the minor leagues.

Because optional waivers are revokable, other clubs rarely claim players from that list. But players must be on a club’s active 25-man roster in order to be placed on optional waivers.

The waiver period lasts 48 hours, which means the Mariners should be able to assign Wilhelmsen to Tacoma in time to add a starting pitcher, likely lefty Wade LeBlanc, to their 25-man roster prior to Friday’s game against St. Louis.

The Mariners need a starting pitcher Friday because right-hander Taijuan Walker is still nursing tendinitis in his right foot. Walker isn’t expected to require time on the disabled list, but he is likely to unavailable until the middle of next week.

LeBlanc, 31, looms as Walker’s likely replacement after the Mariners acquired him late Tuesday in a trade from Toronto for cash or a player to be named later. He was pitching at Triple-A Buffalo and assigned to Tacoma.

Wilhelmsen never clicked in Texas, which acquired him with outfielder James Jones and utilityman Pat Kivlehan in a deal that sent center fielder Leonys Martin and pitcher Anthony Bass to the Mariners.

"I don’t think anything really did (work in Texas)," he said. "You can look it. It wasn’t pretty. It was really hard to deal with. It was, without a doubt, the hardest stretch of my career.

"I could sit here and wonder why, but the best part about this move is that’s over and done with. And there’s no sense in looking back at it."

The Mariners previously reacquired Kivlehan in a May 29 deal from the Rangers for cash or a player to be named later after he was designated for assignment. Kivlehan is currently playing at Tacoma.

Wilhelmsen was 2-3 with a 10.55 ERA in 21 games for the Rangers. His first outing came April 5 against the Mariners at Texas, and he surrendered five runs without recording an out.

"He’s got a good arm," manager Scott Servais said, "and he’s done a good job for the Mariners in the past. I know he had a rough go of it over in Texas."

When Wilhelmsen chose to become a free agent by rejecting a minor-league assignment by Texas after clearing waivers, he forfeited the remainder of his $3.1 million salary.

"(Seattle) is where my career started," Wilhelmsen said. "It’s where my wife and I started our family. The success in this wild ride all started in Seattle. Away from baseball, it’s a part of the country I’ve always loved.

"After being there for five years, it felt like home. It is home."

The Mariners previously cleared space for Wilhelmsen on their 25-man roster by optioning right-handed reliever Jonathan Aro to Triple-A Tacoma after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers.

They cleared space Wednesday on their 40-man roster by transferring lefty reliever Charlie Furbush to the 60-day disabled list. Furbush hasn’t pitched all season because of tendinitis in his shoulder.

Because Wilhelmsen had been removed from the Rangers’ 40-man roster, he could refuse the assignment to Triple-A Round Rock. He will be on the Mariners’ 40-man roster when they send him through optional waivers.

Wilhelmsen compiled a 3.19 ERA last season in 53 games for the Mariners, and spent the final five weeks as the club’s closer. He had a 1.04 ERA over 15 games in that span while converting 11 of 13 save opportunities.

While Wilhelmsen had some rocky moments in his six years, he compiled a 2.97 ERA in 267 games. He also had 67 saves and 28 holds in 109 save opportunities for a 87.2-percent success rate.

The Mariners are hoping he can recapture that form.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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