Former Toro Wilhelmsen reaches the major leagues
The Seattle Mariners have finalized their roster to begin the regular season and it includes former Tucson Toro Pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen.
The Tucson native will get his first taste of the big leagues after a meteoric rise that saw him return from a five year absence from the game with the Toros in 2009 to making the Mariners squad after a strong showing in big league Spring Training this year.
Wilhelmsen is one of five Tucson Toros to have been signed by a Major League organization since the team’s inception in 2009, also joined by RHP Andrew Romo (San Francisco Giants), RHP Rene Garcia (Chicago White Sox), 1B Dustin Yount (Los Angeles Dodgers) and RHP Andrew Snowdon (Philadelphia Phillies).
The Milwaukee Brewers originally drafted Tom in the 7th round of the 2002 Amateur Draft out of Tucson High School and he experienced some early success in his professional career in 2003 with a 2.84 ERA over 17 starts. After 2003, however, Tucson would not pitch in another professional game for nearly 6 years after deciding to depart from the game of baseball at the age of 19.
Tom described his himself as not being fully committed to baseball at the time and feeling the pull to explore life outside of the game, which he did by traveling the world before eventually settling down back home in Tucson bartending at The Hut on 4th Avenue.
Early in 2009 Wilhelmsen found himself thinking about pitching again. He attended an open tryout by the Tucson Toros in their inaugural season, made the club, and opened the year as the team’s closer.
The hard throwing Righthander struck out 13 in 11 2/3 innings and notched a save in the franchise’s first game. Despite the long hiatus from pitching, scouts took notice of Wilhelmsen back on the mound and the Brewers re-signed him midseason, only to become a free agent again after experiencing a few minor injuries. Another door opened when the Mariners, featuring General Manger Jack Zduriencik formerly of the Brewers’ Player Development department who originally drafted Tom, signed him in February of 2010.
He made his debut with the organization in the Arizona Rookie League that June when he simply overmatched the competition, beginning the year by striking out 17 in 10 innings without allowing a run. Tom earned promotions to both the Low-A Everett AquaSox and the Single-A Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League.
Across the three levels he combined to go 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA and a stellar 73/19 SO/BB ratio in 74 innings. After the season Wilhelmsen was selected to participate in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, a finishing school for some of the best prospects in the game held every year in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In November the Mariners added Tom to their 40-man roster to prevent other interested Major League organizations from being able to select him in the Rule 5 Draft in December after his strong showing in affiliated ball this season.
The addition earned Tom an invite to Major League Spring Training, bringing him one step closer of his dream of reaching the big leagues. Wilhelmsen had an impressive camp striking out 11 in 11 innings pitched earning him a spot in the Mariners bullpen where he could make his Major League debut during the Mariners series against the Athletics in Oakland this weekend.
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