ATLANTA -- Matt Wisler has earned the chance to make at least one more start. How he fits within the Braves' future plans will depend on whether he can prove the gem he produced against the Mets on Thursday night was not a fluke."He pitched well enough to put himself
ATLANTA -- Matt Wisler has earned the chance to make at least one more start. How he fits within the Braves' future plans will depend on whether he can prove the gem he produced against the Mets on Thursday night was not a fluke.
"He pitched well enough to put himself in position [for another start]," Braves manager Brian Snikter said. "When a guy pitches that well, you want to get him back out there and hopefully, he does it again."
Wisler might not repeat what he did on Thursday, when he limited the Mets to one run and two hits over seven innings. But as he prepares to likely start Tuesday's game in Cincinnati, he understands his past has afforded him little room for error as he attempts to stay at the Major League level.
When the Braves called up Wisler to make Thursday's emergency start in place of Anibal Sanchez, who strained his right hamstring on Wednesday evening, there seemed to be a strong possibility he'd make an immediate return to Triple-A Gwinnett. This would have set up the possibility for Max Fried to get a few starts until either Sanchez or Luiz Gohara is ready to come off the disabled list.
It was easy to bet against Wisler earning another start. The 25-year-old right-hander had posted a 6.39 ERA over his past 17 starts dating to June 1, 2016. He spent most of last year with Gwinnett, and when the Braves were looking for a fifth starter during Spring Training, he did not enter the picture until after highly touted prospect Mike Soroka exited a Grapefruit League game in Dunedin, Fla.
Wisler recognized how far he had fallen down the totem pole. But he spent this offseason refining his mechanics and, more importantly, it seems like he is now pitching with an enhanced sense of urgency. The biggest knock against him in the past was he wasn't aggressive enough and threw too many "non-competitive" pitches.
Wisler's fastball velocity on Thursday night averaged just 92 mph, which according to Statcast™ stands as his second-lowest mark in any 50-plus pitch appearance since the start of 2015. But his slider had more bite than in the past and instead of nibbling, he challenged hitters within the strike zone more consistently.
"He was on the attack and competing," Snitker said. "I just liked the total package. It's not like he's over the hill. He's still a young guy who is learning. You just never know when guys might figure it out or the light goes on. That was exciting and really encouraging what we saw last night. It's a good situation right now."
Sanchez understood why medical personnel placed his right leg in an air cast before being carted off the field on Wednesday. The veteran right-hander said he could not immediately feel anything near the top of his right leg after straining his right hamstring while running sprints in the outfield grass.
But soon after an MRI exam was performed on Wednesday evening, Sanchez started to regain some mobility and flexibility. He walked around the clubhouse on Friday without a noticeable limp and now hopes to be ready to pitch again within the next couple of weeks.
The Braves activated right-handed reliever Josh Ravin and optioned right-hander Lucas Sims to Gwinnett before Friday's 5-3 loss in 12 innings. Sims retired just one of the six batters faced during the Mets' three-run eighth inning on Thursday. The 23-year-old former first-round Draft pick will now be part of Gwinnett's rotation.
"He just needs to pitch," Snitker said. "I told him, 'You're too young to be sitting down there for six or eight days and then have to pitch. That's for somebody who is older with a little more experience.' He's still a young kid with a lot of promise."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. Listen to his podcast.