Wisler to make Atlanta debut on Friday

The Braves will have a first-hand look Friday at part of the payment for Craig Kimbrel when Matt Wisler makes his big league debut.

As expected, the Braves will start rookie right-hander Matt Wisler Friday night as they open a three-game weekend series against the New York Mets.

Wisler will replace Mike Foltynewicz in the Atlanta rotation. Foltynewicz was demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett earlier this week after three bad starts to start the month of June.

The Braves acquired Wisler from the Padres the day before the season started in the Craig Kimbrel trade. At the time Wisler was considered San Diego’s best prospect. He immediately became Atlanta’s best pitching prospect, ranking higher than Foltynewicz.

Wisler started slow in Gwinnett for April (0-3, 6.75 in four starts), but he had a tremendous seven-start run that began in early May (3-1, 1.96 ERA, 31 hits allowed in 41.1 innings, nine earned runs, six walks and 29 strikeouts). In Wisler’s last start, he allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings at Indianapolis.

“I think in the first month I was relying on the fastball too much,” Wisler said two weeks ago. “Guys were sitting on it. So I just got back to mixing pitches, keeping guys off balance. I get a lot of weak ground balls now on changeups and sliders that I wasn’t getting early in the year. Guys can’t sit on my fastball anymore because I’m locating my off speed pitches better.”

Wisler also admitted an improved slider has made a difference, as he has worked diligently with Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed.

“I never really felt comfortable with it (this year),” Wisler said. “Now it’s feeling good again. It feels like a fastball coming out of my hand again. It felt okay at times, but I wasn’t able to command it or get through it the way I wanted to. I kind of had a flash one time when I was playing catch. Now it comes out the same way as a fastball.”

Wisler also features a changeup, which he developed more last year while with the Padres. His slider has always been considered his best pitch. Wisler said his curveball has been “better this year than it’s ever been.”

With his positive results and development, Wisler has become more of a pitcher instead of a big kid that can throw it past hitters.

Wisler said, “Now I’m able to do more on the mound. I don’t just sit and do the same thing every time. I’m not afraid of throwing the off speed anymore because I have the confidence to throw it for a strike.”

Reed said Wisler became more consistent with his off speed pitches as he got more comfortable in a Braves uniform.

“What hurt him early was he was missing his location, and no matter what pitch you are throwing if you are missing your location you are in trouble,” Reed explained. “Had his slider been better, it would have helped. But we figured out a way to improve his slider and get it back to where he felt comfortable with it, and then things just started to roll.”

Some believed Wisler might stay the entire season in Triple-A, and that might have happened if Foltynewicz had not run into trouble in his last three starts. But the Braves believe Wisler’s good work in the month of May has him ready for an audition in the big leagues.

He’ll face the first place Mets (36-32) Friday night, who will send Jacob deGrom (7-4, 2.33 ERA) to the mound against a Braves team that has a record of 32-35 on the season.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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