Zack Wheeler deals against former club
July, 10, 2013
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Zack Wheeler did not downplay his eagerness to face the team that traded him to the New York Mets two years ago for Carlos Beltran.
“I was really looking forward to it,” Wheeler said after taking a scoreless effort into the seventh inning in what became a 7-2 win against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. “I think I told some of the guys earlier that I really wanted to do well here. And I was able to do that. And it feels pretty good.
“I got drafted by the Giants, and obviously I wanted to pitch here. It’s definitely a pitcher-friendly park. I was lucky enough to get traded. I’m in a good situation now. I’m happy here where I’m at.”
Wheeler allowed a two-out RBI single in the seventh to Brandon Crawford, then struck out Nick Noonan looking at a curveball to complete his outing. He limited the Giants to one run on three hits and three walks while striking out five in his fifth major league start.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to feel out there,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t know if my adrenaline was going to be out of the roof or whatever. I came in from the bullpen and I was pretty relaxed and calm. I went out there with that mindset.
“I was actually really relaxed out there. I worked on some stuff in my bullpen when I first got here. I was just basically keeping the front arm out and it allowed me to keep my front shoulder in and throw downhill. It felt really good in the bullpen. I was hitting my spots well. And I just carried it into the game. I was able to hit my spots.”
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: “He’s got a good fastball. It’s got life to it. He’s got good stuff. He’s mixing in his breaking ball and changeup. You know, as a club, we’re not swinging the bats well right now. We’ve talked so much about this. It’s sometimes hard to read on some games, but I will say Wheeler threw very well today.”
Wheeler -- sporting noticeably better fastball control than some previous outings -- threw a first-pitch strike to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. In his previous start, in Milwaukee, he threw first-pitch strikes to only eight of 24 batters.
“He was a lot more efficient getting ahead, a lot more efficient with his fastball in the strike zone,” John Buck said. “That way when we went to the off-speed stuff it had a little more effect on the hitters.”
Terry Collins said he was impressed Wheeler did not overthrow given the excitement of facing his original organization. Collins spotted a handful of 96 mph fastballs, but mostly thought Wheeler put the ball where he wanted it without trying to light up the radar gun. Wheeler’s fastball averaged 94 mph.
“That’s the best all-around stuff I’ve seen so far,” Collins said. “Great movement on his fastball. His changeup was the best I’ve seen. He used his breaking stuff when he needed to, but I thought his changeup really, really kept them off the fastball and he got some easy outs. The ball had good life today.”
Wheeler also produced his first career RBI. He doubled over the head of center fielder Gregor Blanco, although the rookie noted he actually was trying to pull the ball to right field.
“I stood in the box and looked down the right-field line and [right fielder Hunter] Pence was basically in center field,” Wheeler said. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to try to yank this thing down the line.’
“I tried,” he added with a laugh, “but I was a little late and ended up burning the center fielder.”