Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during a baseball game Sunday, July 26, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during a baseball game Sunday, July 26, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

By CHAYSE HELD

Bryan Times Sports Editor

via The Associated Press



SAINT LOUIS — Simply reaching the Major Leagues is an amazing feat.

But what Bryan native Matt Wisler has been able to do since making his Big League debut with the Atlanta Braves just over five weeks ago has been nothing short of amazing.

The former Bryan Golden Bear has stepped into Atlanta's starting rotation and excelled for a team still in contention for a playoff spot. In fact, Wisler's performed so well over his first 40 days as a Big Leaguer that he is already garnering high praise from his manager and teammates.

"He's done a great job for us. I've really been impressed so far," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Wisler before the Braves' game against the Cardinals Saturday in St. Louis.

"His presence on the mound, he's competitive. His learning curve is pretty quick," Gonzalez added. "He's got three pitches that he can throw at any single time. I really enjoy the way he goes about his business up here. For a young kid he's done a great job."

Through seven Big League starts — including an eight-inning, one-run performance to win his MLB debut on June 19 — Wisler boasts an impressive 5-1 record and 3.43 ERA.

"He's young, he's still learning, but he's going about it the right way which is what you look for first," Braves veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of the 22-year old Wisler. "We're not looking for him to win the Cy Young or set the world on fire but he's gone about it right. He's got a ways to go which all young guys do when they come up. We're all still learning in this game, but he's done it right.

"He's a guy that I think we'll be able to count on down the road."

Wisler's averaging six innings per start and has allowed three or fewer earned runs five times. The Braves are 5-2 in the games he's started, including his seven-inning, two-run performance in a 3-2 victory Sunday that helped the Braves avoid a three-game sweep against the Cardinals, the team with the best record in the Major Leagues this season.

"It's big time," Gonzalez said of Wisler's importance to the team. "He's been able to give us some innings too, especially for a young kid that you don't know or you're not sure.

"I don't even think about him as a first-year player anymore or a rookie," the Braves skipper continued. "There's a lot to be said about him because I think he's one of those guys that don't come around very often."

Wisler, who was traded to the Braves from San Diego before the season, said the key to his success so far has been being able to slow himself during the game and not get too worked up about the fact that he's living out his life-long dream of playing in the Major Leagues.

"It's a dream come true. Every day coming to the ballpark you're in the Major Leagues, so that's awesome. It's definitely a privilege to be able to put the uniform on," Wisler said. "Playing in front of 30, 40 thousand (people) most games, it's exciting, fun atmospheres.

"I think the big thing I've noticed in myself is being able to slow down the game a little bit," he continued. "One of the biggest things I've been doing up here is breathing a little better in between pitches, keeping myself relaxed and staying in the moment rather than letting the game speed up … I think the biggest thing is being able to relax on the mound, not getting caught up in the moment."

Now that the 2011 Bryan High School graduate has been living the life of a Big Leaguer for over a month he's been able to experience just what that life is all about. He said although it's still the same game, but with better players, the perks are quite improved compared to those in the minor leagues.

Along with an increased salary, Wisler and the Braves players travel on chartered flights, get their own five-star hotel rooms and many other amenities while on the road. It's a far cry from the long bus trips of the minors.

"The lifestyle's better," he said. "The travel, the hotels you're staying at, everything is better. It's been a lot of fun so far.

"It's the same game but obviously everyone's a little better up here … The biggest and best thing is the travel. It's way better. Instead of the long bus rides, commercial flights, you get charter flights every time."

At the Major League level every game has extra pressure riding on it and players' daily performance determines whether they will stay in the Big Leagues, especially for younger players. So far Wisler has been able to prove he belongs at that level, but he knows it's very much a "What have you done for me lately?" atmosphere and that he must prove himself every time he takes the mound.

"Obviously the main goal the rest of the season is to stay healthy," he said. "I just want to take every start, start by start. Every time out learn some things. There's a lot to learn up here. Obviously it's going to take a long time.

"You just take the positives and negatives, don't look at the results. Take what you can from the game, learn from it and then get your work in the next four days."

Wisler said Saturday he is well aware and appreciative of the support he's receiving from his hometown of Bryan and the surrounding communities of northwest Ohio.

"Obviously the tweets and the text messages I get, mom and dad told me quite a lot of people go out to (Buffalo Wild Wings in Defiance) to watch," said Wisler, whose parents Bob and Sue have traveled from Bryan to watch their son pitch for the Braves in Atlanta, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

"The support is unbelievable that I have from Bryan and the surrounding area," he said. "It's always nice to know my area has my back and is supporting me no matter if I throw well or throw bad. That's good to have."

As for his baseball future, Wisler said he wants to continue to work to improve and keep learning as he tries to establish himself as a regular MLB starter in what has the looks of the beginning of a long career in the Big Leagues.

"The first couple days I was up I was just in the dugout taking it all in, kind of in awe of it all. But it's been great so far," he said. "I think the big thing is to stay working. Obviously you can't ever take it easy up here or guys are going to eat you alive.

"Just stay into the game, get my workouts in, stay prepared mentally. Watching the other hitters, watching the other guys. Just trying to learn how to get guys out at this level."