ATLANTA (TNS) — A year ago right-hander Matt Wisler was on his way to pitch in the minor leagues for a new organization after the Atlanta Braves acquired him from the Padres in a trade on the eve of opening day.
Now, after a strong finish to his rookie season with the Braves, Wisler is the No. 3 starter in the Braves’ rotation with a season debut against the Cardinals on Friday at Turner Field.
“This is awesome to have a chance to be up here for a full year,” Wisler said. “I feel good.”
Wisler, 23, has been overshadowed somewhat by the bevy of prospects the Braves have traded for and drafted in the past year. But he showed the most promise among the five rookies who started games for the Braves in 2015, particularly while posting a 2.34 ERA over his final five starts.
Wisler will take the mound this season with a re-worked change-up after schooling with Braves great Tom Glavine last winter. Wisler threw change-ups on just 8.5 percent of his pitches during his 19 starts in 2015.
“It’s come a long way,” Wisler said. “It’s a lot more consistent. It might not be the best change-up ever but I feel good with it. I feel confident, which is a big thing for me this year to be able to throw it in any count.”
Wisler had a 3.95 ERA over 13 2/3 innings during spring training exhibition games. After working on fastball location during his first start, he started gradually mixing in his off-speed pitches over the next three.
Wisler pitched in a minor-league game in Florida on Sunday in preparation for his start on Friday. He said he focused on building on the two strong innings he pitched among five total against the Orioles in his final Grapefruit League appearance.
“One thing I noticed at the end of the Baltimore game, once I started staying aggressive every pitch everything started getting better,” Wisler said. “The slider was sharper; the curveball was better. I worked on staying aggressive with everything I threw.”