Pitch variety key to Wisler's spring success

Newcomb endures shaky outing vs. Mets; Coke signed to Minors deal

Pitch variety key to Wisler's spring success

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Matt Wisler made his way toward the mound to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon, he wanted to focus on his fastball command and occasionally mix in his changeup, which was altered with some assistance from Hall of Famer Tom Glavine during the offseason.

But as Wisler efficiently faced the minimum during the two scoreless innings he produced in the Braves' 5-4 win over the Mets, he quickly realized that his ability to consistently command his fastball prevented him from having the chance to test his new changeup.

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"They were swinging pretty early, putting balls in play and being aggressive," Wisler said. "I was trying to get ahead with my fastball. So, it went a lot quicker than I expected."

Wisler, who projects to begin the season as Atlanta's third starter, did not end up using the changeup during this 17-pitch outing, which included one strikeout and three ground-ball outs, including the double play turned on Johnny Monell after Wilmer Flores opened the second inning with an opposite-field single. When the Braves' 23-year-old right-hander makes his next start on Sunday against the Astros, he'll likely focus more on getting a feel for his offspeed pitches.

"My next outing, I'm facing Houston, which, obviously, they're a very good fastball-hitting team, so I'll definitely need my offspeed pitches in that game to get through that," Wisler said. "Especially in Spring Training, I can go out there and throw 20 changeups if I wanted to. I can throw it in counts that I normally wouldn't, just to get the feel for it and the confidence in it."

Wisler teams up with Glavine

When he was acquired from the Padres at the start of last year's regular season, Wisler was a top prospect who was known for his changeup. But as he posted a 4.71 ERA over his 19 big league starts last year, he primarily complemented his fastball with a slider.

Per FanGraphs, he threw a changeup with 8.5 percent of his pitches. It was a pitch he used more frequently during his first three starts and then shied away from for many of his remaining starts, excluding an Aug. 29 outing against a left-handed-heavy Yankees lineup.

"We're counting on him," Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It's time for him to start taking the next step. It looks like he has done that. It looks like he has matured a little bit off the field. You can tell that just from talking to him. He just needs to continue that process and continue to get better."

Odds and ends 
• Sean Newcomb endured another rough outing on Tuesday, surrendering three hits and issuing two walks while facing just six Mets hitters. The Braves' top pitching prospect's reputation for having control problems has been legitimized, as he has issued six walks through his 1 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League play. The left-hander has made just seven starts above the Class A level, and he'll likely begin this season with Double-A Mississippi.

Newcomb was the centerpiece of the package the Braves received when Andrelton Simmons was traded to the Angels in November.

"It's a young kid coming to a new organization, and he's involved in a pretty high-exposure trade," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I'm sure he's just trying to please everybody. He's just a young kid. I don't think the young man even shaves yet."

• The Braves signed veteran left-hander Phil Coke to a Minor League deal, but they did not offer him an invitation to big league camp. There's a chance Coke will occasionally be brought over to serve as an extra arm during Grapefruit League games.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.