Wilhelmsen keeps himself in bullpen mix

Wilhelmsen keeps himself in bullpen mix

Wilhelmsen keeps himself in bullpen mix
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tom Wilhelmsen continues to be the Cinderella story of camp. The 27-year-old, who has never played above Class A ball, remains in the hunt for a bullpen spot.

The Mariners sent veteran relievers Royce Ring, Denny Bautista and Justin Miller to their Minor League camp on Sunday, but Wilhelmsen remains one of eight candidates still competing for seven spots. The big right-hander was out of baseball for five years before signing with Seattle last year, so few expected him to get anywhere near this point.

Wilhelmsen, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on Sunday in the 5-4 loss to the Rangers, had to ignore a little flap in his appearance. While sitting in the dugout, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was ejected shortly after Wilhelmsen had taken the mound, and took a long time leaving the field while play ground to a halt.

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"It didn't affect me too much," said Wilhelmsen, who lowered his ERA, to 2.70. "It just gave me a little more time to control my breathing. I knew what was going on, but I didn't know it was Beltre. He just took his sweet time."

Manager Eric Wedge said it was more proof of the hurler's poise.

"You've got to like his stuff. You've got to like his arm," Wedge said. "That was another test today with whatever that was going on when he was out there. Having to wait around a little bit and keep himself together and refocus and go out and pitch ... It's not your prototypical situation, but still something he had to overcome, and he did."

Said Wilhelmsen: "I've never dealt with anything like that before, but it wasn't anything big or serious. I just came back in and threw strikes."

As he continues to do that, the hard-throwing reliever keeps pushing his way into a long-shot opportunity. And as several of his bullpen competitors were sent down on Sunday, he realized his dream keeps moving closer to reality.

"I am very excited. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I'm making it tough for them," he said. "All I can do is throw my best and keep the ball low."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.