Gutierrez to open season on disabled list
Reliever Wilhelmsen completes storybook spring by making team
Mariners' Gold Glove center fielder Franklin Gutierrez will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, general manager Jack Zduriencik said Tuesday, as the club closes in on its final 25-man roster heading into Friday's opener at Oakland.
Left-handed relief pitcher Cesar Jimenez was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, which means he'll have 72 hours to clear waivers since he's out of options, leaving the team with 25 healthy players.
The Mariners have 30 players still in camp, but five are headed to the disabled list. Those moves haven't been finalized yet, but Zduriencik indicated to reporters that Gutierrez's move will be backdated to March 22, making him eligible to return on April 6.
Gutierrez has been plagued by stomach problems from a digestive tract issue throughout spring, but still has received no answers from a battery of medical tests, and his return remains uncertain.
Gutierrez has missed the past 10 Cactus League games, and has just 24 at-bats this spring.
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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Jimenez's departure means 27-year-old rookie Tom Wilhelmsen made the club, an interesting move for a guy who was out of baseball for five seasons from 2004-09, and has never pitched above Class A ball. But the hard-throwing right-hander had an excellent spring and won a spot.
Zduriencik informed rookies Wilhelmsen and Josh Lueke they'd made the team Tuesday, along with lefty reliever Aaron Laffey. The club added non-roster relievers Jamey Wright and Chris Ray to the 40-man roster on Monday, guaranteeing their bullpen roles as well.
The other two relievers are returnees Brandon League and David Pauley. Veteran closer David Aardsma just began throwing in the bullpen this week as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.
Along with Aardsma, fellow pitchers Nate Robertson and Shawn Kelley are also injured, and will go on the disabled list, where they will be joined by not only Gutierrez, but also infielder Matt Mangini. The club still needs to clear one more spot on the 40-man roster to add non-roster invitees Ryan Langerhans and Luis Rodriguez.
Rodriguez earned the final roster spot as a utility infielder. Langerhans will be the fourth outfielder. The 40-man roster has 39 spots full with the outrighting of Jimenez.
Wilhelmsen could be the story of camp with his surprising jump from Class A ball. Zduriencik was with the Brewers when they drafted the 6-foot-6 right-hander in the seventh round in '02, but Wilhelmsen was suspended in '04 and then quit baseball from 2005-08, and worked as a bartender in Tucson, Ariz.
"He was always a talented kid," Zduriencik said. "If you look back on his record, even the first year he competed in the Midwest League way back when, he was an all-star. It is kind of remarkable to see the length of time he's been off to accomplish what he's accomplished.
"He throws in the mid-90s, he's got a good breaking ball, he's throwing strikes and he's big."
"Two things you look at with him. At age 27, there's a degree of maturity that works in his favor. And he hasn't pitched that much, so he has somewhat of a fresh arm. The whole thinking was we wanted to create a camp that was competitive, and he came in and competed and earned the right to be on the club."
Not even Wilhelmsen came into camp this spring thinking he had much of a shot to crack the Major League roster.
"Maybe a two-percent chance," Wilhelmsen said. "I was thinking because of my lack of experience I'd be headed to Double-A, but this is the best. I was hoping I might be able to get a call up some point this year. Definitely not at the beginning, but I was hoping for it."
Wilhelmsen's storybook tale just keeps getting better. He played co-ed beer league softball during his absence from the game, but didn't return to professional baseball until pitching 11 games in an Independent League shot with the Tucson Toros in '09.
"It's been a crazy road and we're here," he said. "But it's not over yet."