The Milwaukee Brewers now have a bartender. Tom “The Bartender” Wilhelmsen signed a Minor League deal on Tuesday, but he may not be long for Colorado Springs. Find out how he earned his nickname, and where he may fit into the Brewers current bullpen mix.
Tom Wilhelmsen didn’t earn the nickname “The Bartender” because he serves up homers every time he goes out. Far from it…sort of. He was actually drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002. Wilhelmsen spent a few years bouncing around the low Minors before a second marijuana suspension sent him into an early retirement. He went back to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona where he spent five years working as, you guessed it, an actual bartender.
The Bartender attempted a comeback in 2010, and actually succeeded in making it to the Majors in August of 2011 with the Seattle Mariners. He eventually worked his way into a share of the closer’s role and racked up 67 saves over four seasons in Seattle before getting dealt to Texas.
In 2016, Wilhelmsen essentially forgot how to pitch to Major League hitters. In 21 games with the Rangers he managed to post a 10.55 ERA with seven homers allowed. Posting results that poor earned Wilhelmsen his release. He signed up for another tour of duty with the Mariners. Wilhelmsen managed to return to form in Seattle and posted a 3.60 ERA in 29 appearances.
He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2016 season, and was recently designated for assignment. Instead of joining the D-Backs Triple-A squad, he inked a Minor League deal with the Brewers today.
So far this year, The Bartender has a 4.44 ERA in 27 appearances with 17 strikeouts and 12 walks.
How Does Wilhelmsen Fit Into The Brewers Bullpen?
Have you seen the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen recently? Other than closer Corey Knebel, it’s a wreck. Most of the Brewers relievers were overused in April and May, and the impact is now being felt. Former closer Neftali Feliz was released. Wily Peralta, Carlos Torres, and Jacob Barnes all own ERAs in June over 9.00. Oliver Drake hasn’t been much better.
Wilhelmsen is in his age-33 season, but he hasn’t lost any zip on his fastball. He’s still averaging over 95 MPH on the heater, and his cutter/curveball mix add a change of pace.
He’s unlikely to come up and start pushing Corey Knebel for the closer’s job, but he could absolutely push Jared Hughes for the role as the top right-handed set-up guy.
Wilhelmsen will likely spend a few weeks in Colorado Springs working on his cutter and curve. If all goes well, he’ll replace someone in the Brewers bullpen and could eat up a few innings down the stretch.
This is essentially a zero-risk move because the D-Backs are on the hook for the rest of his salary for the season. If he works out, great! The Brewers have another arm the can count on and he’s quirky enough to become a fan favorite and move a few t-shirts. If not, all they’re out is a bus ticket to Colorado Springs.