Wheeler Learning From His Mistakes

Wheeler knows what he did wrong early on

Despite a few rough outings after being called up to the Mets former Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, in August, pitching prospect Zack Wheeler finished strong, winning his last two starts, including a shutout win over the Rochester Red Wings on Aug. 26. That win is a sign of things to come for Wheeler, said Bisons manager Wally Backman in his post game remarks after the shutout.

"We're just seeing the surface of it," he said. "He dominated [that day]. He threw the ball by all those hitters, and threw his breaking ball for strikes. When he can pitch like he did [that day], he's going to be dominant."

The question for Wheeler, in his limited time in Triple-A this past season, is finding the consistency needed to make it in the big leagues. After starting strong in several games early on in his call-up, the 22-year-old right-hander would find himself behind in counts and putting runners on base in the middle innings. He admits it's something he needs to work on.

"You have to keep the same mentality going through the game," he said. "You have to try not to settle down when you're inside the dugout and keep pushing forward."

Keeping your mind in the game is vital, Wheeler said, and placing his pitches.

"You have to go out every inning and concentrate," he said. "You have to keep the ball down, and keep hitting your spots. You may get a little tired, but you just have to push through it and keep making your pitch."

Learning to be consistent and keeping his head in the game is part of the process for Wheeler, Backman said.

"I don't know if it's focus, or just a piece of the puzzle," he said. "He's still a young man. He's still learning and has a ways to go."

Wheeler's pitches are on par with Major League pitches, Backman said. It's just a matter of figuring out how to do it throughout the game.

"His stuff is definitely playable at the next level," he said. "It's a matter of command and consistency. Those are the things you have to be able to do to pitch in the big leagues."

If his last two starts of the season in Triple-A are any indication, Wheeler may be learning from his mistakes, and making his way to the next level.

"He's a power arm with a power breaking ball," Backman said. "I just really believe that he's young enough to where, if this kid stays healthy, he's going to mature into something pretty special, I think."

Wheeler, who ended the season going 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA and 31 strikeouts at the Triple-A level, felt more comfortable in his last two starts, and felt like things were coming together.

"The first few starts, I was just trying to work on some stuff," he said. "I was just sort of messed up mechanically. There were little hitches here and there. I couldn't find the strike zone, I couldn't stay down in the zone. I just put that in the back of my head and went out and pitched like I know how."

For Backman, it's just a matter of time before Wheeler is ready for the next level.

"When he's right, he can be dominant," he said.

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