Barbara Barker of Newsday caught up with Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson who had some nice things to say about Zack Wheeler, but also pointed out what the young right-hander’s main problem is.
“You’ve got to like his arm,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He has a good fastball and breaking stuff. But it’s command. It’s always going to be command up here. No matter how hard you throw, you have to locate. That’s been a little bit of his problem.”
“It’s unfair to compare anyone to Harvey,” he said. “He’s exceptional. He’s got the stuff and he has command. This kid has the stuff. He just doesn’t have his location down pat.”
A couple of the Nats players also weighed in on Wheeler including Adam LaRoche who crushed one of his fastballs for a second-deck home run. He thought the comparisons to Matt Harvey are unfair and unfounded. LaRoche says Harvey is the best pitcher he’s ever faced in his career.
Ryan Zimmerman offered this advice for Wheeler:
“He had trouble throwing strikes,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t care who you are. When you get behind in this league, it doesn’t matter if you throw 100 like Harvey or 80. It’s tough to pitch when you’re behind.”
Wheeler knows the problem and it’s something that has haunted him since he threw his first pro pitch with San Francisco Giants – no command of his fastballs.
“I’m starting to learn the hard way that you can’t get away with mistakes up here as much as you do down there,” said Wheeler, who took his first major-league loss in his Citi Field debut. “Obviously, it’s my fastball command,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, really.”
Now that the Mets have promoted Wheeler – poor command and all – it’s going to be interesting to see how this gets fixed while trying to win games simultaneously at the major league level.