SEATTLE -- Tom Wilhelmsen hasn't blown a save this season and hasn't allowed a hit to a right-handed batter. But the primary topic of conversation for the Mariners' closer on Friday revolved more around his first big promotion.
Saturday night will be Tom Wilhelmsen Train Engine Night at Safeco Field, with the first 20,000 fans receiving the annual giveaway that has turned into a collector's item for Mariners fans. The annual promotion has been going on since 2000 and has included the "Gar Car" for Edgar Martinez, the Ichiro Express Engine, the Boonie Box Car, Felix Hernandez High Octane Gas Car and the Moose Caboose.
Wilhelmsen is happy to join the club.
"I've never had a train named after me," he said with a grin. "And in case anyone was wondering, I was not named after Thomas the Train. It's all good. My family will get a kick out of it. It's fun. It's cool that it's a tradition that has been happening for quite some time. I'm honored to be a part of it. And I didn't even have to dance or do anything."
Wilhelmsen has done plenty on the mound this season, where he's 9-for-9 in save opportunities heading into the A's series. He's retired the first batter he's faced in all 14 appearances and right-handed hitters are 0-for-25 against him.
"I'm getting strike one," he said. "You're going to be successful if you throw more strikes than balls, so that's what I'm trying to go after. Just fill up the strike zone."
As for his success against right-handers, he said nothing has changed in his approach.
"It's the same old thing," he said. "I'm approaching them the same way as lefties, really, just trying to get strike one and put the pressure on them. Most of the time we're in the lead when I come in. It's much easier to pitch when you've got the lead. The pressure is on them, and I want them to feel it even more with strike one. I've been able to find it pretty good so far and I hope it continues."
Ibanez returns to lineup, not concerned about role
SEATTLE -- Raul Ibanez has seen his playing time dip dramatically the past two weeks after getting off to a slow start this season, but the veteran outfielder has made the most of his limited recent opportunities and manager Eric Wedge had him back in the lineup for Friday's series opener with the A's.
Ibanez is hitting .188 in 64 at-bats and has started just three times in the last 13 games. But the 40-year-old has gone 4-for-10 in that limited role after losing playing time following a 1-for-23 slump. He hit a three-run homer on Friday to key the 6-3 victory over the A's.
"It's fine," Ibanez said of his playing situation. "I'm not really worried about it. You just stay ready and work on your craft and nothing really changes. You stay prepared to do your job."
Wedge hasn't forgotten about the 18-year veteran, who also laced a pinch-hit RBI double on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
"That was big," said Wedge about Ibanez's homer in Friday's game. "Good for Raul, good for us. That was a big shot in the arm for us. The guy has been working so hard and you know he'll continue to get better, but that was a big boost for us today."
Ibanez has been in every situation in baseball, so trying to stay sharp even while playing less doesn't faze him.
"You just do it," he said. "I don't put a lot of thought into it. You just make it work. It's pretty simple approach. Make it work."
Gutierrez takes BP, says hammy feels better
SEATTLE -- Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez took batting practice on Friday as he continues his recovery from a strained right hamstring that has sidelined him since April 22.
The 30-year-old is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list as soon as he's ready, but the Mariners will be cautious with the oft-injured veteran.
"He's feeling pretty good," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's been swinging the bat and he'll take some BP today. But we're not to the point where we're going to run him just yet. It's going to take some time for him to get back, but he's progressing."
Gutierrez sounded a bit more optimistic.
"The hamstring is a lot better," he said. "I'm not having any problems swinging and I'm running a little, and no problems there either. I'm going to wait a few days and then I'll run the bases."
Once Gutierrez is ready, he'll need some Minor League rehab time, but there's no timetable on that decision.
• Third-base coach Jeff Datz was back with the Mariners and in uniform on Friday after skipping the road trip while dealing with his recently diagnosed cancer. But Wedge said Datz wasn't ready to resume his on-field duties, which means Daren Brown will continue as third-base coach for now.
• Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma will move ahead of Aaron Harang in the Mariners' rotation and pitch Tuesday and Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, with Harang then throwing Thursday on eight days' rest.
• Blake Beavan held Oklahoma City to three runs (two earned) on five hits in 5 2/3 innings Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma, but took the loss in a 3-1 defeat. Beavan is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts since being sent down.
• After allowing just two earned runs in his previous five starts, top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings as Double-A Jackson dropped a 6-2 decision to Huntsville on Thursday. Walker is 3-3 with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts while holding opposing batters to a .176 average.