Zack Wheeler spoke to reporters after last night’s win and acknowledged that he needs to start addressing his command issues very quickly.
“Been a few times now where I’ve had to come out of the game early because I’m throwing 20 pitches an inning, falling behind guys, stuff like that. It’s not going to work,” said Wheeler who lasted just 4.2 innings on Saturday. “That’s part of my game I’m going to have to fix pretty fast.”
It was his second start at Citi Field and each time Wheeler has failed to get out of the fifth inning.
“I just got to get more comfortable with my mechanics. Just figure out something and stick with that.”
The one thing that has plagued Wheeler in the major leagues is a familiar problem and one that he has struggled with throughout his minor league career – command.
You look at yesterday’s results and see two walks – no big deal – but it’s two walks in 4.2 innings which translates to about a 4.0 BB/9. And it’s not just the walks. The command issues keep him from being efficient which leads to extraordinarily high pitch counts. Wheeler left before completing the fifth inning with 106 pitches thrown.
His secondary pitches, particularly his slider and changeup, are pedestrian and inconsistent and need more developing. While his fastball has been as advertised, it’s less effective without the complimentary pitches and hitters who wait on it have barreled up against it.
On the plus side, Wheeler (so far and in a tiny sample size) has shown a knack for bearing down with runners on base after he gets himself into jams. When Terry Collins pulled him in the fifth with the bases loaded, he managed to escape with just one run scoring.
“That was definitely tough. I wanted to get through that inning not just for the win but to get out of that jam so we didn’t have to use the bullpen earlier than we had to,” Wheeler explained. “My pitch count was high and I guess Terry thought it was the right time to take me out and it worked out for us.”
Wheeler didn’t figure in the decision, but kept his team in the game last night and the Mets hung on for a 5-4 win.
He is now 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in six starts with 18 walks and 26 strikeouts in 32.2 innings.
Collins is hoping to see some improvement in the second half. “We’ve got 11 or 12 more starts,” Collins said. “We’ll certainly run him out there every five days and hopefully he gets better.”
One thing I like about Wheeler, is he never makes excuses and remains accountable. It seems that most of the excuses for any of his performances, and I’ve seen and read dozens of them, are fan driven and not from him which is a good thing.