Snitker: Braves still believe in Wisler, who gets a start Saturday

Matt Wisler is returning to a starting role in the major leagues, at least for one day. Count Braves manager Brian Snitker among those who believe the former top prospect can still develop into a successful big-leaguer pitcher.

Wisler will be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to start one of the games in the Braves’ day-night doubleheader Saturday against the New York Mets at SunTrust Park.

“(Legendary pitching coach) Johnny Sain used to say, a lot of them have got to come up and then go back to figure things out,” Snitker said. “He’s getting the opportunities. We’re going to hang with him and continue running him out there, wherever it is. Because we still like him. We like him a lot.”

The Braves won’t have to make a 25-man roster move to accomodate Wisler, since he’ll serve as the “26th man” under the special rule that allows major league teams to use an additional player in doubleheaders.

Top prospect Sean Newcomb will start the other game for the Braves — the order hasn't been announced — and it will require a move to get Newcomb on the 25-man roster.

Wisler, 24, has worked as a starter at Triple-A this season but strictly as a reliever in two major league stints, posting a 7.00 ERA in nine innings of two major league games while allowing nine hits and three walks with three strikeouts in nine innings.

He was once a highly rated prospect much like Newcomb, and Snitker hopes Wisler will eventually realize his potential. As a member of the Braves’ rotation for most of the 2015-2016 seasons, he was 15-21 with a 4.88 ERA in 47 games (45 starts).

“He’s got the weapons, he’s got the pitches,” Snitker said. “His stuff is good good for him not to be successful. He’s learning. He’s continuing to learn here and then he goes back — you go back down and you’re going to know whether or not you can get away with that in the big leagues. You throw a pitch and maybe get away with it.

Wisler’s inconsistent first two seasons in a nutshell: In an August 2016 call-up, he made two starts and went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, including a game at Arizona when he pitched eight innings and allowed just two hits and one run.

“That game in Arizona last year, we were like, man, this is what we’re talking about, what it looks like,” Snitker said.

Then he made four September starters and went 1-3 with a 6.53 ERA and .306 opponents’ average.

“You know, at some point I’d like to see him get on a roll and get confidence in himself and what he’s doing and believe,” Snitker said. “It can happen.”

Team officials concluded last year that Wisler was probably rushed to the majors before he was ready, because the Braves had few other suitable options a couple of years ago and he had impressed in spring training.

The Braves sought to avoid a repeat of that scenario with other young pitchers this year by signing aging veterans Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to one-year contracts and trading for Jaime Garcia in the last year of his deal.

Neither Colon, who has been the majors' worst starting pitcher by most statistical measures this season, nor Dickey have lived up to expectations, and Colon was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday with what the team said was a left oblique strain.

With Colon missing his next start Saturday, the Braves needed to add two starters for the doubleheader, which has separate admission and start times of 1:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m.

The Braves hope Wisler will do better Saturday than he has in a starting role at Gwinnett. He is 1-4 with a 5.01 ERA in seven Triple-A starts, allowing 50 hits (four homers) and 11 walks and 29 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.

He did improve in his most recent start Saturday, allowing six hits and two runs in five innings a day after he was optioned to Triple-A.

“You just don’t know in their mind what pressure they put on themselves,” Snitker said of young players. “They start thinking, ‘I’ve got to back that (Arizona performance) up with a better one,’ and they starting trying to do it instead of letting it happen. That’s all part of the maturation process in becoming a successful major leaguer.”

“At some point he’s got to do it. He’s got to take the reins and make it happen. He’s getting great, as far as getting coached up and all that, he’s been around some really good people in his career that are trying to help him and talk to him about things. I think it’s just him believing in himself and going, because it’s there.”

In his last major league appearance May 28 at San Francisco, Wisler pitched two scoreless innings with no hits or walks. He had been scheduled to make his next start Friday for Gwinnett, but will instead start a day later against the Mets.