Tom Wilhelmsen might be moving to a starting pitcher role. He'll start for Tacoma this afternoon, and James Paxton will back him up.
Tom Wilhelmsen starts for Tacoma today, pitch two inn, & be followed by James Paxton. Capps is not on the Rainiers roster for today's game.— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) August 6, 2013
Carter Capps is coming up instead of James Paxton, so this isn't a straight swap. Carpps has been solid in AAA since his demotion.
They wouldn't start Wilhelmsen if they weren't planning on stretching him out a bit to see what happens. Paxton will be around to pitch multiple innings in relief, presumably like a normal start on his regular day of rest. If Wilhelmsen is going to join the rotation, he can shuffle in along with Paxton on regular rest thanks to the Rainiers off-day tomorrow (their last of the season).
The Mariners posted this almost immediately after the news broke.
Tom Wilhelmsen will start for the @RainiersLand today (11:30 am) and is expected to throw multiple innings.— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 6, 2013
The Mariners often take their time in announcing roster moves, even waiting days to announce that Erasmo Ramirez was joining the team even after he'd cleaned out his locker in Tacoma. Their immediate announcement that Wilhelmsen is starting hints that something more is afoot than just giving him multiple innings to work on things.
Shannon Drayer clarifies even further.
Wilhelmsen will get longer outings to work on his pitches. Not officially transitioning to starter but the option is there to do so.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) August 6, 2013
Take it as you will. While there's nothing to see here yet, there's certainly a decent chance that the Mariners will keep starting Tom Wilhelmsen in Tacoma through the rest of the year. They're using this as a trial period to see if he could work as a starter. Casey McLain at NASORB suggested this move last week.
Wilhelmsen was quite bad as a starting pitcher in Jackson back in 2011. His strikeout rate plummeted to 5.9 K/9, he carried a 5.23 FIP, and then the Mariners put him in a relief role at the big league level. Wilhelmsen skipped AAA, so this will be his first appearance as a member of the Rainiers.
Whatever role Wilhelmsen is used in, it really won't matter if he can't find his control and get his confidence back. There's obvious upside to this move, but this experiment isn't going anywhere if Wilhelmsen can't get his old form back. I'm skeptical anything is going to come of this for 2013, especially with less than 30 games remaining in Tacoma's schedule. If things do go well, there's a chance that the Mariners will have another starting pitching option for 2014.