Wisler's changeup showing consistency

Wisler's changeup showing consistency

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Matt Wisler struggled during the latter part of his rookie season in 2015, he didn't seem to possess the same level of confidence that he has recently shown while growing more comfortable with the changeup that Tom Glavine helped improve this past winter.

"He's got a little different look in his eyes," manager Fredi Gonzalez said after watching Wisler allow two runs over four innings in Friday afternoon's 6-5 win over the Marlins at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.

Gonzalez again noticed the difference when Wisler allowed three extra-base hits within a span of six batters and then retired each of the final five that he faced after surrendering a monstrous Marcell Ozuna homer that cleared the tall scoreboard in left-center field.

"I loved the way he got back on the mound and said, 'You're going to have to hit four more [homers] because I'm not coming out of here,'" Gonzalez said.

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Wisler has given up three earned runs on six hits over 8 2/3 innings in three Grapefruit League starts. He was encouraged by how his slider improved over the course of Friday's outing. But the most important addition to his repertoire might prove to be the changeup that Glavine helped refine during the offseason.

"To be honest, this is the best [the changeup] has felt probably ever for me," Wisler said. "I just think the consistency of it -- I'd have it in certain games, but I didn't trust it. I didn't throw it that much, and I'd try to manipulate it. Now, my thought process is just, 'Keep it down in the zone.'"

Wisler posted a 4.79 ERA in 19 starts as a rookie last year, primarily complementing his fastball with a slider. Per FanGraphs, he threw a changeup 8.5 percent of the time. He used the offspeed pitch more frequently during his first three starts, then shied away from it.

"I think it just became too inconsistent," Wisler said. "Certain days it would feel really good and other days it would just feel terrible. I just didn't throw it enough to really work on it. I'd throw it in the bullpen, but in the game I just wouldn't trust it. I trust it now."

Odds and ends

John Gant has proven to be one of the most pleasant surprises. The right-handed pitcher, who was acquired from the Mets last July, has allowed just one earned run over 8 1/3 innings. He has positioned himself to at least remain a candidate to begin the season as a member of Atlanta's pitching staff. Gant has yet to make a start, but he has worked at least two innings in three of his four appearances.

• If Jhoulys Chacin ends up getting a rotation spot, Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz are the top candidates to begin the season as Atlanta's fifth starter. Foltynewicz's start on Thursday against the Nationals marked his first appearance in a game since he was sidelined by a blood clot in September. He is the only member of this trio of candidates who is scheduled to pitch in a Grapefruit League game (Tuesday) during the next turn through the rotation.

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