Braves’ Wisler struggles with fastball, Tigers tee off

With Luiz Gohara hurt, there is a wide-open competition for the spot he was expected to fill in the Braves rotation. Matt Wisler knows he’ll have to pitch a whole lot better than he did Sunday if he’s to have any chance of getting the job.

Wisler started in place of Gohara against the Tigers and gave up five hits, four runs and two walks with two strikeouts in three innings of a 6-3 Braves loss in Grapefruit League game at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“Slider was good, but I was behind in the counts and fastball command was terrible,” said Wisler, who threw 31 strikes in 51 pitches. “I’ve got to work on that this week.”

It was his worst outing of the spring and came at an inopportune time, two days after Gohara sprained an ankle, the second injury of the spring for the rookie who was penciled in the rotation entering camp. Gohara is out indefinitely.

Aaron Blair, another former top prospect who’s a long-shot candidate for the rotation, fared better than Wisler on Sunday. Blair allowed three hits and one run in two innings as the first reliever used after Wisler exited.

“(Blair) was down in the zone good, threw a couple of good change-ups and a couple that got away,” Snitker said.

Wisler allowed five hits, no run and no walks in seven innings over his previous three spring games including two starts before Sunday, when he gave up a long homer to Victor Martinez on a 2-0 pitch in the second inning and allowed three runs in the third before recording the first out in that inning.

“He put himself into some bad counts,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Threw a few good sliders, but it’s hard to get behind them guys like that.”

The first three batters of the third inning reached on a single, walk and single before Miguel Cabrera cleared the bases with a three-run double for a 4-0 lead. Wisler got the next three batters on a strikeout, fly-out and grounder to finish his day, the damage done.

“I felt good, felt like I competed out there,” he said. “After the double I came back and got three shutout (batters), so I felt good about that, felt good with the way I ended. Like I said, slider felt good, now I’ve just got to harness the fastball, curveball and change-up a little better.”

Especially if he hopes to get any consideration for a spot in the rotation or bullpen, either now or later in the season.

“Yeah, I still feel like there’s open competition,” Wisler said. “Obviously I’ve got two or three more outings to go so I’ve got to improve upon what I did today and build on the good starts I had and improve the fastball command to go along with the good slider I had today, see how things go.”