The 32-year-old was re-signed by the Mariners last week after being released by the Rangers, for whom he posted a 10.55 ERA in 21 appearances following his offseason acquisition from Seattle.
He pitched one game with the Mariners last week, throwing a scoreless inning against the Tigers, before being optioned to Tacoma to rebuild his arm strength. He allowed one run on two hits in three innings of work in two appearances for the Rainiers and now rejoins a club for which he recorded 67 saves and posted a 2.96 ERA in 268 games from 2011-15.
"His velocity came up his last outing," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He was very sharp. It was two innings and16 pitches his last time out, so he's starting to get confidence back. Maybe not overanalyze and think too much, just let it hunt and trust his stuff. It's good to see."
Confidence and command are the two things Wilhelmsen clearly seemed to lose in Texas, but he's eager to put that in the past.
"As far as the physical part, to me command was the issue," he said. "Just maybe being a little up with my fastball. These guys were getting good pitches to hit and they're not looking at 'em. When I'm getting hit that hard, that's usually the case. It's getting extended and finding that low strike, particularly low and away to righties, which has kind of been my bread and butter over the years."
As for the mental part? Wilhelmsen knew he was a better pitcher than what he was showing in Texas and he forfeited about $1.8 million to become a free agent rather than accept a Minor League option from the Rangers after being designated for assignment.
"That's exactly why I decided to leave Texas," he said. "I just knew the last 21 innings of my career are not the kind of pitcher I am. My arm feels good, my body feels great, and now my mind is wonderful. So I'm just looking forward to moving on, putting back on the Mariners jersey and dominating again.
"Just walking in here today was great. A bunch of smiles, friendly faces, not only with players and staff, but the folks that work around Safeco, the security and everyone involved in the whole bit. It's home, it's a lot of fun, and I'm happy to be back."
To open a spot on the roster, the Mariners optioned right-hander Donn Roach back to Tacoma. Roach pitched in three games for the Mariners in the past week, with a 10.80 ERA on six hits and four runs in 3 1/3 innings.