So much for the Tom Glavine or John Smoltz school of development. Matt Wisler is back in Triple-A Gwinnett, taking the hard knocks of a twenty-something pitching prospect all over again, while the rest of the Braves go on with their rebuild.
But here’s the catch: Wisler isn’t buying any theories that suggest he has not received a chance to take his lumps in the big leagues like the generation before him.
“No, I got my chances,” Wisler said Monday here before Gwinnett opened a three-game series with the Charlotte Knights. “I had a lot of chances, I didn’t take advantage of them. … I went through some last year. They gave me an opportunity to bounce back in September. This year … June was iffy and they gave me four or five chances in July to fix it and I couldn’t.”
Wisler gave up half a dozen runs — or more — in four straight starts before the Braves pulled the plug following his July 28 start against the Phillies. Marty Reed, Wisler’s former pitching coach in Gwinnett and now the Braves’ bullpen coach, called the decision gut-wrenching.
“Between Roger, myself and Snit, it was really, really hard because we love the guy,” said Reed, referring to pitching coach Roger McDowell and Braves manager Brian Snitker. “There may not be a finer person walking around in a baseball uniform than Matt Wisler.
Nevertheless, Wisler called the demotion “deserved.”
“Coming down here, it’s kind of helped,” said Wisler, who is scheduled to make his fourth Gwinnett start on Friday. “I can clear my head a little bit and just get back to work on what I need to focus on, not really worrying about trying to make people happy (and) ‘You had a bad outing, what are they thinking about me?’ Just go back to pitching.”
The Braves didn’t sent Wisler down with a to-do list of adjustments.
“Mechanically, he’s fine,” Reed said. “It’s just the execution of pitches. … At the major league level, you’ve got to execute pitches in critical situations to be able to survive.”
That starts with men on base. Wisler has been susceptible to the big inning in large part because of a .319 opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position. Wisler said he’s trying to pitch more aggressively from the stretch.
“I slow down my body too much sometimes,” Wisler said. “So (I’m working on) staying aggressive and staying on the same attack that I am out of my windup.”
Simulating major league jams isn’t easy, he said.
“It’s a little different up there when you’ve got 50,000 people screaming at you on the road,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier when you’re at a Triple-A stadium. There’s no real pressure. Nobody really sees what you’re doing.”
But the Braves are watching. Reed called Wisler’s first three starts in Triple-A “encouraging.” He is 1-1 with a 3.66 ERA. Wisler has given up 19 hits in 19 2/3 innings, including two home runs, but only eight earned runs. He’s walked five and struck out 18.
“I trust my stuff almost a little more here,” Wisler said. “So (I need to) take that same approach when I go back up there — if I get the chance to go back up — into any situation, stay confident that I can get out of it.”