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Milwaukee Brewers will reportedly sign reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to minor league deal

The hard-throwing right-hander is reportedly returning to the organization for the first time in more than 10 years.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Under David Stearns, the Brewers haven't been afraid to take a flier on minor league free agents who may be able to help the major league team down the line. It looks like they're doing it again, this time with someone who has roots in the Brewers organization.

According to Adam McCalvy, the Brewers are signing former farmhand Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal.

The hard-throwing right-hander was released by Arizona earlier this week after putting up a 4.44 ERA in 27 appearances this season.

A 7th round pick of the Brewers in 2002, Wilhelmsen's big league career has been a pretty incredible redemption story.

As a 19-year-old with a 97 mph fastball, he dominated the Midwest League in 2003, putting up a 2.76 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 63 and walking 27 in 88 innings. The next year, though, he failed two drug tests due to marijuana. He was suspended for a full season in 2004 and quit baseball the following spring, deciding to travel the world and take up a job as a bartender.

By 2008, though, he decided he wanted to return to competitive baseball. He gave up weed and pitched in an independent league in 2009, even getting a workout scheduled with the Brewers (who still retained his professional rights) before pinching a nerve in his neck and ultimately getting released.

But Jack Zduriencik, who drafted Wilhelmsen as the Brewers' scouting director, decided to give him a chance in Seattle, signing him in March 2010. At 27 years old, Wilhelmsen made his major league debut the next season, starting an improbable run that had him pitching at a borderline All-Star level as the Mariners' closer. He racked up 29 saves in 2012, striking out 26.7% of the batters he faced. He followed that up with 24 saves in 2013 before being replaced as the team's closer in September.

Despite no longer holding down the 9th inning, he was still a valuable part of the Seattle bullpen in 2015 before ultimately getting traded to the Rangers after the season. His stint in Texas did not go well, though, and ended with him getting released in June of last year. He caught back on with Seattle before getting released again after the season. He then signed with Arizona this February, with his last appearance for the Diamondbacks actually coming against the Brewers, when he threw a shutout inning on June 9th.

Wilhelmsen has seen his strikeout rates drop over the past couple years, despite his fastball being as hot as ever (it's averaged 95.6 mph this season, up from 94.8 last year). He also throws a cutter and a curveball.

Since he only signed a minor league deal, he'll have to show the Brewers front office he still has something left at age 33. Even if he doesn't, a move like this could be a subtle reminder to other members of the struggling big league bullpen (say, Wily Peralta) that the team will look for other options if they continue to underperform.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs