Tucson Padres

Nothing really surprises Tom Wilhelmsen anymore.

Not even a demotion from MLB closer to Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers reliever.

This is the same guy, after all, who went from bartending on Fourth Avenue to closing games for the Seattle Mariners.

"I guess it was just the same as anyone else's reaction," Wilhelmsen said before the Rainiers lost 5-3 to the Tucson Padres at Kino Stadium Wednesday night.

"I wasn't totally blown off guard, I knew how I was pitching, I know how I was performing."

He opened the season strongly in Seattle - a 0.75 ERA with 12 saves in 24 innings - but fell off in June and had a 8.51 ERA the rest of the way. The tipping point came on Aug. 1 when he gave up four runs without recording an out against the Boston Red Sox.

Five days later, he was sent to Tacoma, where he has an 8.22 ERA in four games. He is scheduled to pitch in relief tonight against the Padres.

"I mean, I'm still playing, so it's still going pretty good as far as that goes," Wilhelmsen said. "It's a game of adjustments, and I just gotta make mine. Working hard and staying healthy, those two are the main keys."

Now, for a few days, he's back in Tucson, where it all started for him. In 2002, Wilhelmsen was drafted out of Tucson High by the Milwaukee Brewers.

He is joined at the Rainiers by Stefen Romero, a Sunnyside grad. Romero and Wilhelmsen share a Tucsonan heritage and a fondness for Sonoran hot dogs. But they are of a different ilk, and era.

Romero graduated from Sunnyside in 2007, Wilhelmsen from Tucson High five years earlier.

Romero is 24, Wilhelmsen 29.

The only number that matters to Romero, though, is 145. That is, the number of big league games Wilhelmsen has played in. For Romero, an outfielder, it's zero.

"It's really cool to have him here," said Romero, who's hitting .281 with seven home runs and 62 RBIs in 85 games with the Rainiers. "Listening to some of the stories he has, and just talking to him about what it's like to be in a big league clubhouse and in the major leagues and stuff like that really rubs off on me."

In 10 days, major league rosters will expand, and players will be called up from Tacoma. It's entirely possible that Romero and/or Wilhelmsen will be among them.

Or not.

"You know, I just need to stay healthy and work hard, that's it," Wilhelmsen said. "I don't have any say on where I go or what I do. I can just control me and just continue to keep my nose down and grind hard."

Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at zrosenblatt@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @ZachBlatt