From bar to bigs: Wilhelmsen lands spot in M’s bullpen

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I had the opportunity to do a story on Tom Wilhelmsen this spring as part of a seven-part series on players chasing their big-league dreams.

In case you’re still not familiar with his story, the 6-foot-6 pitcher quit the game in 2004 after being suspended for a second failed test for marijuana. He traveled the world and became a bartender, and generally gave up on his childhood dream.

But he eventually decided to get back into the sport, and spent last season in the Seattle Mariners system, topping out a mid-level Class-A ball.

Today the word came down: Seven years after quitting baseball, Wilhelmsen was going to the major leagues, landing a spot in the Mariners bullpen. The Mariners coaches admired the 27-year-old’s poise on the mound, and his 97-mph fastball didn’t hurt, either.

Geoff Baker has a nice story on Wilhelmsen’s big moment over at the Seattle Times, including an emotional interview with Wilhelmsen’s father, John.

“I’m so relieved as a father, because I didn’t want him to be 35 and saying, ‘I shoulda,’ ” his father said. “I didn’t want him to live his life like that. I wanted him to know for himself that, whatever happened, he gave it 100 percent. After that, whatever happens, happens.”

Wilhelmsen made it to the majors, but what about the other players I featured this spring? Let’s take a look:

Hunter and Lewis are, of course, established big leaguers who shared stories of their past struggles. Ackley is a rising star who was chosen No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft. Of the others, only Wilhelmsen is likely to stick in the majors this season, and his cause was aided by playing for a team in transition that entered spring with lots of bullpen questions.

It all just illustrates how difficult it is to play this wonderful game.

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Jose Reyes is hitless in 20 plate appearances to start the season

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Mets backup infielder Jose Reyes pinch-hit and popped up in the top of the eighth inning of Thursday night’s game in Atlanta against the Braves. That ran his streak up to 20 consecutive hitless plate appearances to start the 2018 season. He has reached base once, however, on a walk, so there’s that.

Reyes, 34, signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Mets near the end of January. At the time, the Mets hadn’t yet signed Todd Frazier, so Reyes was in the mix to contribute as a utilityman but he has operated as a bat off the bench for the most part this season.

One wonders how much longer the Mets are going to let Reyes flounder. According to FanGraphs, he has already been worth a half-win less than a replacement-level player. Only eight other players have been as bad or worse this season.