Collins: Wheeler 'work in progress'

NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler still needs improvement with his fastball command, but he nonetheless earned the win Thursday as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 7-4.

Wheeler was charged with four runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks in six innings. He surrendered a pair of homers, but he improved to 4-1.

Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler

#45 SP
New York Mets

2013 STATS

  • GM7
  • W4

  • L1

  • BB20

  • K31

  • ERA3.72

Wheeler became the fourth Met to win four of his first seven career games, joining Jason Jacome, Octavio Dotel and Dillon Gee.

Wheeler suggested that he simply needs to throw more strikes.

"I've been struggling all year so far with getting ahead," Wheeler said. "It's going to allow me to do a lot better -- keep my pitch count down and let me go deeper into games, and sort of set guys up instead of trying to burn a fastball by them every time.

"I trust my stuff fully, but when you aren't throwing strikes with your fastball, which is your main pitch, I'm not going to say it bothers me. But there's something in the back of your head that's like, 'I've got to throw it and they know it's coming.' Stuff like that. But I'm starting to come around."

Wheeler required 31 pitches to complete the first inning. He did have some efficient innings later and completed six before departing.

Terry Collins said he did not want to send Wheeler out for the seventh in part because he likely would have needed to remove the rookie mid-inning because of a pitch limit that was set at about 105. Collins said an additional motivation is that the Mets are trying to keep Wheeler's innings in check anyway to allow him to get deep into the season.

John Buck said Wheeler would get batters to chase pitches just out of the strike zone in the minors. Now, with more disciplined hitters, Wheeler is finding those pitches being taken for balls, so the right-hander needs to adjust.

"When he pounds the strike zone, he gets outs," Collins said. "He's got great movement on his fastball. But he's got to work so hard. There are a lot of deep counts. And the more major league hitters see pitches, the more dangerous they become, because now they 'hunt' certain things. And when you make a mistake, you look up and they've got four hits and four runs, because they can hit the ball out of the ballpark because they're looking for something. They know they're going to get something up or something out over the plate or whatever it is. And when they do, they're going to do damage with it.

"He's a work in progress," the manager continued. "But I'll tell you one thing: Everybody is right. The sky's the limit with him. He's got 'plus' stuff. He's tougher than people give him credit for. He's going to be fine. But he's got to make some adjustments."