In the midst of all the Keystone Cops slapstick last night, Zack Wheeler made his fourth start of the season and delivered a somewhat uneven performance.
It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, it was a step in the right direction.
“I’m happy about my outing, even though there were some low points,” Wheeler explained. “Falling behind, throwing 20 pitches per inning, then only going five. But I battled out there as best as I could and got a good result in that fifth.”
The Mets top prospect completed five innings, tossed 99 pitches, and allowed three runs – one earned – on seven hits, three walks and three strikeouts. He improved his record to 2-1 with a 4.29 ERA for the season.
In 21.0 innings pitched, Wheeler has allowed 21 hits and walked 13 while striking out 16 batters.
As I pointed out in my recap last night, Wheeler has shown a mental toughness and an ability to bear down when he needs to resulting in many stranded baserunners. It’s a trait that will serve him well as he continues to develop.
Going back to Spring Training, I emphasized on many occasions that the comparisons of Wheeler to Matt Harvey were unfounded and unfair. Harvey was polished college arm from one the greatest baseball programs in the country and zoomed to the majors in 18 months. Wheeler was a high school pitcher with a live arm, impressive but raw stuff, and was going to be a work in progress. Since his debut, that phrase has now suddenly become very popular when discussing Wheeler.
For now, Wheeler needs to focus on being more efficient. He’s getting his outs, but it’s taking far too many deep counts and his lack of command is the issue. Once he gets that problem licked, he’ll be able to go deeper into games and will stop handing the game to the bullpen by the fifth inning.
“100 pitches in five innings is a lot,” Collins said after the game. “In the fifth inning, he had to work out of a bases-loaded jam. That’s why we took him out. He probably had another inning in him. But when you had to work that hard to get out of that inning, that’s enough.”
All things considered, everyone was pleased with the young man’s performance. The velocity, the late movement, and the deception was all there. Now, all that remains for Wheeler is some aging - just like a good vintage wine.
Wheeler’s next assignment takes him to the West Coast where he will face the team that originally drafted him – the San Francisco Giants. Like most baseball players, Wheeler looks forward to doing his best against his former team and proving them wrong for not sticking with him.
“Yeah, it’s in the back of my head”, Wheeler said last night. “It would be nice to have a good outing there. Let’s put it that way.”
(Photo Credits: San Francisco Chronicle, US Presswire)