Baseball is like life — it runs in circles. Former Padres’ seventh round draft pick Matt Wisler was traded in April of 2015 to the Atlanta Braves for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. He is now back with the team four years later and performing well out of the bullpen.
Wisler was in a battle for a roster spot during the spring. The Reds decided to go another direction and move on from the pitcher. Without minor league options, Cincinnati elected to find a trade partner for Wisler instead of risking leaving him on waivers. The Padres might have been a surprise team to acquire Wisler, but they have a familiarity with him. They knew what to expect from the 26-year-old.
Returning to the Padres was a pretty smooth transition for Wisler. “I know some of the guys here already. It has been cool coming back here. I have some history with Balsley, so that makes the transition a little easier. I love the city. I have worked out here before. I knew the clubhouse and everything, and that made it a whole lot easier,” Wisler said. Being traded is not an easy thing to endure for a young player, but he took comfort in returning to a system he was familiar with very well.
Wisler and Austin Hedges have a great relationship. Hedges has no issues communicating with pitchers, but he and Wisler grew up in the system together, and that built a strong bond. “I threw my first few years in the minors to Austin Hedges, so that helps. Getting a new catcher can be difficult, but he is someone I have worked with in the past,” Wisler said. He enjoys working with the Padres catcher and regards him as one of the best in the game. Wisler has a lot of respect for Hedges.
The current minor league system is jampacked with talent. The major league clubhouse is starting to reap the benefits of that. Wisler spoke about the system now as opposed to when he was in San Diego in 2014. “When I was here, the minor leagues were pretty good. They kind of went for it all, so all the guys I was with are basically gone. When I was gone for those four years, they went into rebuild mode. It is cool coming back to a city and franchise that is focused on trying to win. They are signing guys and making moves. It is much more fun being a part of a team that is trying to win,” Wisler explained. The Padres have a different aura about them than before. There are clear goals, and the team is starting to attain each one as the franchise develops.
The slider is a pitch that Matt Wisler is using a lot while on the mound. Batters are hitting .171 off the pitch, so he is having success with it. “It is a pitch that I use a lot. As a reliever, I can use the pitch a little more frequently. Starting, I can’t go out there and throw 60 percent sliders, but out of the pen, it can be effective. For me, the situation is going to dictate how much I throw it, and when I throw it. It is a pitch I feel comfortable with,” Wisler told EVT. He has a lot of comfort with the pitch and will use it in any count. Wisler has gone 1-1 this season with a 3.57 ERA out of the pen for the Padres. He has struck out 20 batters in 17.2 innings pitched and is becoming a real option for the team out of the pen when they have the lead.
His slider is a plus pitch, but Wisler has had issues in 2019 with his fastball. Batters are hitting it and putting it in play at a .378 clip. Wisler can reach 95-96 with his velocity, so that is not an issue. He does tend to locate it poorly, and that can be a problem. “For me, I need to stay back with my fastball and allow my arm to get there. When I am not locating well, it is because I am forcing it. My arm tends to lag, and it is hard to catch up. I need to have confidence in the pitch. I need to stay back and drive it in there,” Wisler said. He is well aware of his issue with the pitch and is working hard to get better. That is what it is all about — progression. So far, in 2019, Matt Wisler is showing a lot to the Padres and their front office.