Confidence and a complete command of the strike zone was the perfect antidote for Braves right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday. Coming off a trio of poor relief appearances this month and sporting an 0-1 record and 9.82 ERA, Wisler started and dazzled a Houston Astros split squad with a 51-pitch, four-inning performance, allowing just one hit and striking out two.
Thanks to Wisler and an assortment of relievers, the Braves carried a 4-1 lead into the ninth before Houston scored four runs on Luke Jackson to walk away with a 5-4 win before a Friday afternoon crowd of 2,791 at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
But it was Wisler’s outstanding outing that pleased Braves skipper Brian Snitker.
“I thought he located his pitches really well, especially the two-strike pitches,” Snitker said. “He’s just going out and doing his thing. He put the hitters away better than before.”
Did this outing secure the 24-year-old Wisler a spot on the Braves’ opening-day roster?
“We don’t know,” Snitker continued. “It’s how we view him helping us more. In Triple-A or out of the (bullpen), we don’t know. Nothing is set in stone. We’ll definitely need him before the year is over. He’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
For Wisler, it was a masterful performance and just what the doctor ordered for the third-year right-hander who is coming off a 7-13 mark in 2016.
“I made some adjustments and pitched pretty well,” Wisler said. “My slider got better as the game went on. And I was comfortable with the change-up, but I still have strides to make.”
This season Wisler hopes to prove to the Braves that he is a bona-fide big-league pitcher.
“Even if I don’t break with the team,” he continued, “I will be as ready as possible and hoping to help the team win.
“Last year was full of a lot of ups and downs,” Wisler went on to say. “I started off the season great and then was hammered. I need to be more consistent. I also struggled mentally. Now I need to get calm and not get ahead of myself.”
Wisler has his sights set on earning a spot in the rotation, but at this point, it’s making the team that matters most.
“It’s whatever is open with the team. If I can make it as long relief, I’ll take any role I can to get on the big-league team.”
Note: Highly touted prospects Ozzie Albies and Rio Ruiz continued to showcase their big-league potential. The 20-year-old Albies singled leading off in the first, walked and stole a base, was flawless in the field and is now hitting .364 this spring. Ruiz, just 22, went 2-for-2 at the plate with two RBIs and is batting .308 thus far.