Thomas Mark Wilhelmsen
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 6", Weight 230 lb.
- High School Tucson High School
- Debut April 3, 2011
Tom Wilhelmsen is a pitcher who made the Seattle Mariners' major league roster after being out of baseball for several years.
Prior to playing professionally, Wilhelmsen attended Tucson High School, out of which he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the 2002 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Brian Johnson and began his professional career the next season.
Wilhelmsen played for the AZL Brewers and Beloit Snappers in 2003, going a combined 5-6 with a 2.84 ERA in 17 starts. Following the 2003 season, he tested positive for marijuana multiple times and was suspended for the 2004 season. He left professional baseball in 2005.
After tending bar in the Tucson, AZ area for several years, he pitched for the Tucson Toros of the Golden Baseball League in 2009. Despite posting a 6.17 ERA in 11 games, the Seattle Mariners saw something in the hard-throwing righthander and signed him to a minor league deal the following winter.
He was in spring training with the M's the following year. Pitching very well in nine games, he was informed on March 28 that he had made the big league roster. He made his big league debut in a 7-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on April 3, 2011; he retired the top of the A's order in succession in the eighth inning, catching David DeJesus looking on a curveball for his final out. Overall, he made 25 appearances out of Seattle's bullpen and pitched very well. He was 2-0, 3.31 in 32 2/3 innings, only giving up 25 hits and striking out 30 batters. He also pitched for the AA Jackson Generals, but did not do as well. Pitching as a starter, he was 4-5, 5.49 in 14 games.
In 2012, Wilhelmsen picked up the first win of the major league season, as he came on in relief of Felix Hernandez in the 9th inning of the season opener in Tokyo, Japan on March 28th. He kept the Athletics off the scoreboard for 2 innings, and inherited the win when his teammates scored a pair of runs in the top of the 11th inning. Brandon League then came in to pick up the save in the 3-1 Seattle victory. On June 8th, he played a key role in a memorable game, as he entered the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the 9th with the Mariners leading, 1-0, and five predecessors on the mound having kept the Dodgers from recording a single hit. League had preceded him on the mound in the 8th, getting the M's out of a jam with a brilliant performance, and it was up to Wilhelmsen to record the save. He did it in great fashion, retiring Dee Gordon on a grounder, Elian Herrera on a soft line drive, and Andre Ethier on another ground ball. Both the 1-0 win and the no-hitter were completed, tying a record of six pitchers used in a no-hitter set by the Houston Astros in 2003. It was Tom's third career save. From that point on, he grabbed the closer's spot away from League, who had been an All-Star the previous season, but was traded away for prospects at the trading deadline on July 30th. Tom was away from the team at that point, staying with his wife who was expecting the couple's first child imminently. He ended the year with a 4-3 record, a 2.50 ERA in 73 games, and 29 saves.
Wilhelmsen could not continue that high level of performance over the next few seasons. He did save 24 games in 2013, but his ERA rose to 4.12 in 59 games and his record was 0-3. In 2014, he bounced back to a 2.27 ERA in 57 games, with a 3-2 record, but was no longer the closer, as he saved only 1 game. Surprisingly, he made two starts that season. In 2015, he again got an opportunity to save some games after closer Fernando Rodney faltered, and he ended up with 13 saves, to go along with a 2-2 record and a 3.19 ERA. One constant over the years was his ability to pick up more strikeouts than hits allowed, his worst ration coming in 2013 when he had 45 of each; in other years, his strikeouts were well ahead of the hits, and he gave up as few as 47 hits in 79 1/3 innings in 2014.