MILWAUKEE -- Fourteen years after he last threw pitch in the Brewers organization, Tom Wilhelmsen is back.Two sources said the Brewers signed the hard-throwing righty reliever to a Minor League contract after he was released by the D-backs on Monday, reuniting Wilhelmsen with the organization that drafted him out of
MILWAUKEE -- Fourteen years after he last threw pitch in the Brewers organization, Tom Wilhelmsen is back.
Two sources said the Brewers signed the hard-throwing righty reliever to a Minor League contract after he was released by the D-backs on Monday, reuniting Wilhelmsen with the organization that drafted him out of high school in 2002. Wilhelmsen is expected to join Triple-A Colorado Springs in New Orleans on Thursday for the start of a four-game series.
If he performs, he has a chance to quickly advance to Milwaukee. With Wily Peralta's poor showing Monday night, Brewers relievers have surrendered 1.46 walks plus hits per inning pitched, the third-worst mark in the Major Leagues. They lead the Majors with 19 losses.
Wilhelmsen has authored one of baseball's most fascinating stories, beginning in 2003 as a 19-year-old Class A All-Star with a 97 mph fastball. The following year, Wilhelmsen failed two drug tests for marijuana, was suspended for the season by the Brewers and sent to an inpatient rehab facility. In 2005 Spring Training, he decided he was done with baseball.
So he took a job tending bar in Tucson, played co-ed softball with future wife Cassie and traveled the world, hiking all over the American Southwest and backpacking in Europe. Four years later, in 2008, Wilhelmsen stopped smoking pot and started contemplating a comeback. In 2009, his success with the Tucson Torros of the independent Golden Baseball League nearly led to a comeback with the Brewers, who still owned his rights. Wilhelmsen told the Seattle Times that he had a workout scheduled with Milwaukee scouts before he pinched a nerve in his neck and had to be shut down.
The Brewers released him that August, but Wilhelmsen found a taker in March 2010 in the Mariners, whose GM at the time, Jack Zduriencik, was Brewers amateur scouting director back in '03 when Wilhelmsen was drafted. In 2011, seven years after he walked away from the game, Wilhelmsen was in the Major Leagues.
From 2011-15, he was a mainstay for the Mariners, posting a 2.97 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and 67 saves in 267 appearances. But the past season and a half has been a struggle, with Wilhelmsen pitching to a 5.94 ERA for the Mariners, Rangers and D-backs, and his strikeouts per inning down to 5.6 - almost three strikeouts per nine below the previous five years. But he still throws hard, averaging 95 mph with his four-seam fastball this season and topping out at 97.4 mph, according to Statcast™.
The Mariners and D-backs have both released Wilhelmsen within the past five months. Now he gets a fresh start with his original organization.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.