By Ed Coleman
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Zack Wheeler seems to be adjusting quite nicely to his new surroundings.
Though he suffered the loss in his last start on Saturday — Wheeler is now 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts for the Single-A St. Lucie Mets — he’s making progress with his revamped delivery and seems to have settled in with his new teammates.
Wheeler has a big arm and a great fastball, but experienced control problems before the trade while with Single-A San Jose in the San Francisco Giants organization. He issued 47 walks in 88 innings, and decided to change his mechanics back to his high school delivery, placing his hands up higher along with a high leg kick, before his final two starts with San Jose.
The adjustment, says Wheeler, has obviously worked.
For four consecutive starts — the last two in the Giants’ organization and the first two with St. Lucie — Wheeler did not walk a batter. He walked three in his last outing on Saturday, but there’s been a marked improvement. He’s trying to keep the ball down, getting over his front side a little more, not under pushing the ball up arm side and, as a direct result, up in the zone.
Wheeler’s first start for St. Lucie was also his shakiest. He went 4 innings, allowing 7 hits, 4 runs, 4 strikeouts with no walks. Wheeler’s next start, Monday August 8 against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, was by far his best – 6 innings of scoreless ball, just 4 hits, no walks and 7 strikeouts along with 2 wild pitches.
He faced the Stone Crabs again on Saturday, and the familiarity of facing the same team in back-to-back starts might have had something to do with the outcome. Yet he still pitched 5 innings of 5-hit, one-run ball, walking 3 and striking out 3. And after giving up 3 runs in his first inning of work for St. Lucie, Wheeler settled in and allowed only one run over his next 10 innings, and just 2 over his last 14 innings.
Wheeler also had the advantage of some sibling tutelage. His older brother Adam pitched for the Staten Island Yankees, and gave him some great advice while growing up: remain focused and calm while on the mound.
As for the Mets organization, Paul DePodesta, Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, says that they will not be intrusive at the beginning, rather they will watch and evaluate.
And speaking of growing up, Wheeler is a Georgia kid who was raised within shouting distance of Turner Field, and so naturally was a big Braves fan and also a huge fan of a constant Mets’ nemesis — “Larry” Chipper Jones.
And they still are a pretty good team, Zack. One that Mets fans will be expecting you to beat on a regular basis in the near future.
C U soon
Do you think Wheeler is the real deal? Let Eddie C. know in the comments below…