SEATTLE -- There is nothing like a three-up, three-down inning with three strikeouts to bolster a reliever's confidence, so Mariners manager Eric Wedge got Tom Wilhelmsen out of Tuesday's 9-4 loss to the Pirates as soon as the big right-hander put up the perfect seventh inning.
"I planned on him going two innings, but he was going so good that one inning I wanted to get him out of there and just end on a really good note," Wedge said prior to Wednesday afternoon's series finale. "I think that's the beginning of the path for him being on the way back."
Wilhelmsen has been temporarily removed from the closer's role after allowing 15 runs (14 earned) over his last 15 appearances and converting only five of his last 10 save opportunities. But Wedge fully expects to get him back in the closing mix soon and liked what he saw Tuesday.
"It's huge, and I think that again it starts with just being on top of the baseball and driving it down and being on line with the fastball," Wedge said. "He does that and that shortens up his breaking ball, and he's able to command a little bit better, it's a little bit sharper and that's what you saw last night. He did a good job mixing his changeup in, too."
Wilhelmsen put away all three hitters he faced with curve balls but downplayed that Wednesday.
"It's nothing that I have done any differently; I often go to that pitch with two strikes," he said. "I guess it was [sharper]. They missed them, or they didn't swing at them. I'll take it. It was a step in the right direction."