Lloyd McClendon has repeatedly pointed to the starting pitching as the Mariners' No. 1 strength, and he is looking to get the most out of it heading into the All-Star break. Felix Hernandez has already been bumped a day to Friday in order to start against the A's, and Taijuan Walker was optioned to Tacoma today and his Saturday start has been given to Hishashi Iwakuma, meaning the A's will now face the Mariners' top three arms this weekend in Felix, Iwakuma and Chris Young on Sunday.
Walker will pitch for the Rainiers through the break, most likely making two starts with the first on Sunday. He will have to stay with the Rainiers 10 days before returning unless there is an injury on the big league team. With the time he has missed with injuries and the team not needing him until the second series of the second half, this move makes sense.
Stephen Pryor was called up to replace Walker on the roster, giving the Mariners two extra relievers, setting them up nicely for the bullpen game on Thursday. McClendon announced today that Tom Wilhelmsen will make the start. Wilhelmsen will come into the game with a regular five days rest as the Mariners have been able to stay away from him the last few days in anticipation of the start. McClendon said realistically he would most likely be able to get about three innings out of him but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw four. Wilhelmsen has been pitching well and getting quick outs in the pen. If he has his command he may be able to go a little longer.
McClendon said that Brandon Maurer, who has the most (and most recent) experience as a starter, was not considered for this start, which makes sense because Maurer is enjoying the most success he has seen in the better part of the last two years pitching out of the pen. The relief role seems to suit him better and McClendon is wise not to mess with that.
So the rotation heading into the break is Wilhelmsen and the bullpen, Felix, Iwakuma and Young. Coming out of the break McClendon said he most likely would lead off with Iwakuma and Felix in that order against Anaheim. Felix will most likely get an inning or two in the All-Star game Tuesday so pitching Iwakuma first keeps him closer to regular rest.