Zach Wheeler is gaining more confidence each time he takes the mound for the New York Mets. Friday night at Citi Field against the Chicago Cubs he threw a career high 120 pitches, and it is a matter of time when that number will reduce with progression. The feeling, Wheeler is almost there after giving up two runs and four hits and walking four in 6/2-3 innings.
The slider was moving and the curve is getting better. Wheeler struck out a season high-tying 10 in the Mets 3-2 win over the Cubs. It is just a matter of time for Wheeler who will only get better when the changeup is perfected to his assortment of pitches.
“His stuff gets people out…the type of bulldog he’s becoming,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Improving to 5-0, with a 2.02 ERA in his past nine starts, Wheeler has a tendency to have a high pitch count. Through three innings he had five strikeouts, and threw 59-pitches. However that is a part of this growing process and he can only get better.
Wheeler said he is aware everybody has knowledge of the high pitch counts. That everybody is Collins, pitching Coach Dan Warthen, and of course the Mets fan base. The right hander improved to 8-8, a .500 mark for the first time this season
He added, “I always try to pitch to contact early, but sometimes I catch myself trying to do a little bit too much sequence-wise or just command-wise. Sometimes I catch myself throwing a lot of pitches at the beginning of the game.”
It is at the point now, to see Wheeler progress and throw a minimal amount of pitches the first few innings and once that happens, he will be the “bulldog” Collins describes. At various times, during the first few innings, Wheeler was once again behind in the count. Then he went to work and threw the slider and fastball to notch a strikeout.
Collins did not want him to go over 115 pitches. After striking out the first two he faced in the seventh, Wheeler walked the next batter and Collins removed him from the game. The objective is to work those early innings as an economical pitcher. With that in mind, and with the assortment of pitches that are improving, Wheeler will work deeper into games.
It is a learning process, as Wheeler continues to grow along with the other young arms that comprise a bright future for the Mets. The second inning he put the first two Cubs on base and then struck out the side, which goes for a sign of learning on the job and getting better with each pitch.
Now, if Wheeler can only improve on that pitch count, he will be in business.
“Any pitcher, you want to get through seven,” Wheeler said, “if not deeper. It’s unfortunate that my pitch count throughout the season has been high. That’s something that I’m definitely going to look at during the offseason and try to figure something out.”
And when that happens, the progression will be accomplished.