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M's set rotation for weekend, option Taijuan Walker to Tacoma - July 9, 2014

Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen #54 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 14, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Mariners beat the Cardinals 4-1.(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

by Curtis Crabtree
KJR reporter
Twitter: @Curtis_Crabtree

SAFECO FIELD - Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon finally set his rotation for the final four days before the All-Star break.

Tom Wilhelmsen will get the start Thursday in the series finale against the Minnesota Twins in a game that will be handled by the bullpen. Wilhelmsen has been McClendon's long relief option for most of the first half of the season and can give the team three-to-four innings of work.

In giving Thursday's game to the bullpen, it allows McClendon to throw his three top pitchers against the AL West leading Oakland Athletics this weekend.

Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young will start the three games against Oakland this weekend before the All-Star break.

"You've got an opportunity to put your best and your most experienced pitchers out there, you do it," McClendon said. "Whether it's Oakland or Pittsburgh or anybody else, you just put your best out there and try to finish up the first half."

Yet McClendon swears he's not putting any extra attention on the opponent this weekend being the A's.

"I learned a long time ago you don't put importance on one series," McClendon said. "What happens if we get swept? The season is over? That's why you don't do that."

Taijuan Walker was initially scheduled to start Saturday against Oakland, but the team elected to option him to Triple-A Tacoma to keep him throwing through the All-Star break. He will likely make two starts for Tacoma before rejoining the Mariners rotation for the series against the New York Mets.

In Walker's place, the team recalled reliever Stephen Pryor from Tacoma.

Pryor has been pitching with Tacoma since recovering from a torn tendon in his right shoulder that forced him to miss nearly a year. Pryor has thrown 25 2/3 innings for the Rainiers with a 4.91 ERA.

Iwakuma and Hernandez would then open the second half against the Los Angeles Angels.

Game Notes:

AS YOU KNOW…Seattle is looking for its 50th win of the season tonight…BUT DID YOU KNOW…that it will be just the 5th time in club history to record 50+ wins before the All-Star Break?…also recorded 50 wins before the break in 2001 (63 wins), 2003 (58), 2002 (55) and 2000 (51)…did not win 50th game of the season in 2013 until July 28th in game #105.

ODDS AND ENDS…lost last night, and are 2-3 in last 5…have won 6 of 9, 12 of 17 and 15 of last 22 games…22-13 since June 1, tied for the 4th-best winning pct (.629) in the Major Leagues…won 8 of last 11 home games since June 15.

The Standings – Mariners are 3rd in AL West, 8.0 back of Oakland and 3.5 back of 2nd-place LAA.
Dominating – Felix Hernandez ranks 1st in the AL in ERA (2.11), 2nd in strikeouts (145), T3rd in wins (10), 1st in quality starts (17), 2nd in innings pitched (136.1) and 1st in WHIP (0.895).
10+ Hits – When recording 10+ hits the Mariners are 28-4 (.875), best W-L% in AL.
Batting Race – Robinson Cano is 5th in the AL with a .319 batting avg (106x332).
The Closer – Fernando Rodney is 1st in the AL with 26 saves (26-for-28 in save opps).
Multi-Hit Special – Robinson Cano is T4th in the AL with 33 multi-hit games…7th with 105 hits.
Flashing the Leather – Mariners lead the AL with a .987 fielding percentage (42 E, 3,329 TC).
Maurer Power – Brandon Maurer has not allowed a run in 4 games in relief (7.0 IP, 3 H, 9 K, 2 BB).

SEEING DOUBLE…Michael Saunders is hitting .500 (9x18) with 1 double, 1 triple, 2 home runs & 5 RBI against the Twins in 2014…he has hit safely in his last 10 games against Minnesota (since June 1, 2013), batting .469 (15x32) with 6 runs, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 6 RBI and a 1.375 OPS…in his career against the Twins, is hitting .318 (27x85) with 10 extra-base hits & a .921 OPS.

CANO TOO…Robinson Cano is hitting .463 (25x54) with 10 runs, 6 doubles, 3 home runs, 16 RBI and a 1.257 OPS over his last 14 games against the Twins, with hits in 13 of those 14 games including an active 8-game hitting streak (since July 12, 2013)…his .332 (90x271) lifetime average against the Twins ranks 8th-best amongst active Major Leaguers.

CAN’T HIT THIS…Seattle boasts three pitchers in the top-10 (and 2 of top-4) in opponents batting in the American League…Felix Hernandez ranks 2nd (.201), Chris Young ranks 3th (.208) and tonight’s starter Roenis Elias ranks 10th in the American League (.238)…overall, Seattle leads the Major Leagues with a .227 (670x2957) opponents batting average.

CENTRAL THINKING…Seattle has won 9 of the last 13 games against the American League Central and have won 5 of the last 7 home games against the Central (since May 31)…overall are 12-9 against the A.L. Central with a 2.70 ERA (57 ER, 190.0 IP)…in the last 13 games against the Central, have a 2.10 ERA (28 ER, 120.0 IP) with 115 strikeouts.

ABOUT TOMORROW…the pitching plan for tomorrow is for it to be a “Johnny All Staff” day with Tom Wilhelmsen making the start…Wilhelmsen’s career-high in innings pitched is 3.0 (6x, last: June 30 at Houston)…over the last 17 games (since June 20), the bullpen has a 0.85 ERA (5 ER, 53.0 IP) with 57 strikeouts…the bullpen has tossed at least 5.0 innings in a game 11 times this season and in those games have a 1.79 ERA (12 ER, 60.1 IP) while limiting opponents to .198 batting average.

MIS(P)ING IN ACTION…Seattle is 0-for-the-last-22 at-bats with runners in scoring position, a stretch that dates back to the end of the game on July 2 at Chicago...over the last 5 games, Seattle is hitting .056 (2x36) with runners in scoring position with 9 strikeouts…overall this season, rank 7th in the American League with a .258 (180x699) average with runners in scoring position.

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