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Mariners moving Wilhelmsen out of closer's role

Mariners moving Wilhelmsen out of closer's role

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Mariners moving Wilhelmsen out of closer's role

OAKLAND -- Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen's four blown saves since May 20 have earned the Mariner's right-hander a demotion from the closer's role.

"We're going to pull him back a bit and use him with every intention of getting him back to the closer's role," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Friday, "but we're going to give him a break here."

Wedge said he'll opt for a closer by committee approach in Wilhelmsen's absence, inserting pitchers based on matchups while Wilhelmsen looks to play out of his funk through outings in earlier innings and looks at multiple-inning opportunities as a possibility.

"We'll do the best we can with everybody down there," Wedge said of his bullpen. "I'm not going to put it on one guy. Nobody's ready for that.

"One of the tough things about doing it this way is that you got to have potentially multiple guys ready for you in the ninth inning so you can't use one or all of them earlier. It's going to be a little tougher bridging that gap."

The Mariners hope Wilhelmson's new role is only temporary and he'll return to being the dominant pitcher he was for the first seven weeks of the season, when he converted 11 consecutive saves with a 0.41 ERA.

Wilhelmsen said that while his fastball has maintained its velocity, his ability to locate his pitches and throw his curveball has declined -- not the best formula for a pitcher with just two pitches in his repertoire.

"You can't stay up here and throw one pitch for a strike," Wilhelmsen said. "So if you want to stay up here then it makes it pretty important to throw another one for a strike."

Wilhelmsen said he's spotted a few mechanical areas he'll look to improve upon, including shortening his stride and following through more on his pitches.

"You try to go back and see what you're doing wrong," Wilhelmsen said. "Maybe it's the extension, maybe you're rushing it. There are a number of things, and I'm not going to know until I find it."

Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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