Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon made an intriguing, although not entirely unexpected, decision with respect to his pitching rotation Wednesday. Long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, once the club’s closer, will start Thursday against the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a four-game series at Safeco Field.
Wilhelmsen has never started a game at the major league level and started only twice in the minor leagues, most recently at A Clinton in the Midwest League in 2010. With the All-Star game nearing and McClendon free to burn through is bullpen, he is expected to follow Wilhelmsen with a string of relievers.
That will give Felix Hernandez an extra day off so he can pitch the opener of a three-game series against the division-leading Oakland Athletics Friday night at Safeco Field.
McClendon’s plan was disclosed after Taijuan Walker was sent to AAA Tacoma and promoted reliever Stephen Wednesday. Sending out Walker will enable him to pitch on regular rest through the All-Star break and remain on schedule to return for a start July 22 against the New York Mets.
After Hernandez pitches Friday, he will have four days off before the All-Star Game Tuesday in Minneapolis. With Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka going on the disabled list Wednesday with a sore elbow, Hernandez is expected to start. Hernandez will be making his fifth All-Star appearance.