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League could return to Mariners' closer role

League could return to Mariners' closer role

League could return to Mariners' closer role
SEATTLE -- Brandon League has pitched fairly well in seven non-save situations since his demotion as Mariners closer and could soon be returned to that role, manager Eric Wedge said prior to Sunday's series finale with the Dodgers.

League has a 3.52 ERA with three holds in his seven games since May 28, allowing three earned runs and nine hits in 7 2/3 innings. He gave up four hits and two runs in the eighth inning of Sunday's 8-2 loss.

Wedge hasn't formally named a replacement closer in that span, but Tom Wilhelmsen has three saves and has pitched well in his ninth-inning appearances. But Wedge feels the bullpen will work best with a full-strength League in the closing role and indicated he and pitching coach Carl Willis are in agreement that the time is near.

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"We feel like the last time [League] was out was everything we were looking for, from the way he carried himself, to his stuff, to the competition, to the situation," Wedge said. "We felt really the three previous times he threw the ball was pretty good, too.

"Tom has done a nice job for us late in the ballgame. We've had a lot of guys in the bullpen doing a nice job. We'll stay where we are today and at some point in time, sooner than later, we'll look to give League another shot at closing. But I'm not going to do that on a whim. I'm not going to surprise anybody. I'll have a conversation first and we haven't had that conversation."

Wedge said the plan all along has been to give League time to regain his form and confidence, much as happened last year after a midseason blip.

"He saved 37 games for us last year," Wedge said. "The reason we went with everybody in the bullpen instead of just one guy when we pulled Brandon back is I didn't want to put that heat on one guy. And I still feel that way. Truth of the matter is, we still have a lot of young kids in the bullpen. If things keep on track with Brandon and he gets another shot to close, that doesn't mean Tom or somebody else won't get a chance to close from time to time. You want to have options."

One thing Wedge doesn't want, however, is a "closer by committee" situation.

"That is a pain ... because everybody else is outside of their optimal role," he said.

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