So Zack Wheeler took the mound on Thursday evening to try and bounce back from a bad start – and for a while, it looked like he was going to do just that. He allowed back-to-back doubles to begin the ballgame, which resulted in an earned run in the top of the first, but he settled down right after that and retired the next eight batters straight, striking out three of them. He walked Ryan Franklin to end the trend, but struck out the next batter to end the inning. He retired the next three Tacoma batters in order, while striking out Mike Zunino for the second time in the game.
It all started to unravel in the fifth, however, when Wheeler allowed a lead-off home run to Carlos Triunfel. He was able to get to the next two outs, but then the real trouble began. He walked a batter, allowed a single, and walked Eric Thames to load the bases. Tacoma’s Alex Liddi drove home two with a ripped double off Wheeler, who turned it around and stuck out Mike Zunino (again) to end the inning. He went ahead to allow another lead-off home run in the sixth to Stefen Romero, and drilled the next batter on an 0-2 fastball…which to be honest, looked painful. He was lifted after that.
Wheeler still has some work to do in the minors but tonight was an interesting look at how most people feel about Wheeler – and I’ll explain why. He was pretty strong over the first four innings, which was an indicator of all the good things to like about him. A healthy amount of strikeouts, a dominant fastball and overall ace-like presence on the mound. However, the later part of the game showed his potential susceptibility to home runs, his control issues, and how quickly a game can unravel on him.
This is a sign of growth for Wheeler, and although a couple of bad innings derailed this start, he is moving towards becoming major league ready. I have to say, however, it really does look like a good decision by the front office to have kept him in AAA to begin the 2013 season.