LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Wisler could have sulked or allowed his confidence to be shaken when the Braves responded to his struggles by placing him in the bullpen for one game in September.But instead, the former top prospect finished the 2015 season strong and returned to Spring Training
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Wisler could have sulked or allowed his confidence to be shaken when the Braves responded to his struggles by placing him in the bullpen for one game in September.
But instead, the former top prospect finished the 2015 season strong and returned to Spring Training with a renewed sense of confidence that helped him become one of the most impressive pitchers in Atlanta's camp.
"He looks stronger mentally and physically," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "He's got just a better mindset. He's more aggressive. He's done a good job preparing this offseason. It might be that he just understands how good he can be."
Wisler spent this entire offseason in Atlanta and took advantage of a few opportunities to work on his changeup with Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. The 24-year-old right-hander has looked much more comfortable as he has prepared for his spot in Atlanta's starting rotation with the three solid Grapefruit League starts he has completed thus far.
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While there is uncertainty beyond Julio Teheran in Atlanta's rotation, the strides that Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz have made since last year have given the Braves hope that they might now start gaining immediate returns from the impressive young pitching crop they have compiled since the end of the 2014 season.
"Sometimes when players come up [to the Majors], it's all so new to them," Coppolella said. "But [Wisler] has got a ton of talent. I think you're seeing that fortitude, where he came into camp saying 'I'm going to lock down this job,' and he has.
After being acquired by the Braves in the trade that sent Melvin Upton Jr. and Craig Kimbrel's contract to the Padres just before the start of last year's regular season, Wisler showed some signs of why he was a highly-touted prospect. He completed eight strong innings against the Mets during his Major League debut on June 19 and posted a 3.43 ERA over his first seven starts.
But after posting a 9.49 ERA over the seven starts that have followed, the Braves seemed to provide beneficial motivation when they used him out of the bullpen on Sept. 6 at Nationals Park. The initial thought to utilize him as a reliever for at least a couple weeks was erased when the rotation was affected by a couple injuries.
Thus, Wisler was given a chance to prove himself again and provide a glimpse of his mental strength. He responded in impressive fashion, producing a 2.34 ERA over his final five starts.
"Ever since that [relief appearance], he's been a different guy," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a guy who has gotten better every start and he's carried it on during this Spring Training."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.