READER, BEWARE: Instead of talking about the team in our usual manner, we tried live-texting for Zack Wheeler’s Debut. This is a fair approximation of what we said — for better and for worse.
JP: Gary Cohen opens the broadcast, “Today is young guns day.” An apt analogy. Harvey hit 100 MPH today.
MG: Yes, that was a matter of time. 92 MPH sliders. The right-handed Randy Johnson.
JP: Ron Darling on Wheeler’s second pitch: “Easy gas.”
MG: Swing-and-miss fastball.
JP: Too bad it had to be Recker back there for Wheeler’s debut. Wow, just broke Upton’s bat on a 2-0 fastball. Zack goes 2-0 on first five Braves hitters, Darling says he looks a little “ashen” out there. The stuff is impressive.
MG: The fastball, yes, but the few breaking pitches so far have not done anything. Byrd will hit a bomb tonight.
JP: Maholm throws at Byrd’s speed. A crafty guy, but no heater. Oh, look: It’s Josh Satin time!
JP: Satin is another looker. Hey, there’s Chipper Jones sitting next to Wheeler’s parents. I’ve always liked and respected Chipper. Great competitor, a constant in a long line of great Braves teams.
MG: Good, got the curveball over. That’s important. The fastball moves.
JP: See Cowgill’s throw? It bounced 20 feet in front of the relay man. How many AAA guys in this lineup? Seriously: CF, LF, C, 1B, and SS.
MG: They wanted to make Zack comfortable.
JP: So they installed slot machines in the locker room.
MG: Looks like 95 MPH is his minimum speed.
JP: Like you on your way home from a trip visiting your kid in Elmira. Get out of town fast. Wow, he just struck out the side in his 2nd major league inning. It’s not nothing. Uggla’s double would have been a dinger in Vegas, I bet.
MG: Good point.
JP: Juan Lagares isn’t small, but he hits like he’s 150 pounds. Two walks in 82 ABs. Not good.
MG: No, even I want more walks than that, especially if you have no power. Sandy must hate it.
JP: Forget the walks, I hate all guys who can’t hit. Here we go with Zack, bottom of the 3rd, second time through the order.
MG: Best curveball so far.
JP: My take: If he gets the curve over, any hitter is in serious trouble. First start, complete with obvious jitters, but this is the Wheeler I expected. At least at this point in his development.
MG: Five innings max tonight.
JP: I’m sorry, but I love this kid. On the other hand, our offense sucks. How do we not hit Paul Maholm?
MG: Have you seen us play?
JP: Shhhh, it’s Satin Time! Looking at those bushy eyebrows, I’m pretty sure he’s not a metrosexual. Two runners in scoring postion, two outs. Takes 2-0 pitch. Takes 2-1 pitch.
MG: He wants to stay!
JP: He read Sandy’s memos!
MG: [Satin whiffs, looking at 3-2 pitch.] Second and third and he’s hoping to walk. Next!
JP: Never swung — with Anthony Recker and his .150 BA on deck. Satin, Recker, Quintanilla. How are we not scoring?
JP: Justin Turner injury is killing us.
MG: Don’t let Buck near the pies.
JP: Ha, great point. We’ve lost a valuable pie man with this injury! Okay, here we go, third time through the lineup. 76 pitches. Last inning I’d bet. Long day with the early doubleheader. Must be fatigued.
MG: This will be it.
JP: Double play! Quick inning. What was that, 6-7 pitches?
MG: And another broken bat. I agree with Darling’s assessment. Harvey’s slider is better, Wheeler’s curveball is better. That works for me.
JP: All said and done: six shutout innings against the division leaders. And remember, the Braves saw Harvey earlier today, so had a chance to time the heat. Marcum should pitch between these two. We need a soft-tossing lefty in there.
JP: Top of the 7th. Satin takes the first pitch. Arggh. Wait, look — he swings and strokes a single. What a concept.
MG: Where was that with runners on?
JP: Now it’s Recker, not optimistic. By the way, Gary keeps talking as if Wheeler’s numbers in Vegas had any meaning. Comparing them to Harvey’s numbers in Buffalo is even crazier. Wow: ANTHONY RECKER GOES BOOM! Nevermind whatever I said before.
MG: A nevermind moment.
JP: I have lots of them. You know what gets me, these guys dithering over a 6-man rotation. Let’s have Matt Harvey pitch less! Brilliant. This is not difficult folks. Put Hefner in the pen, he’ll help the team there. Or Marcum. Whatever. Just make a decision. Problem solved.
JP: Wheeler up there to bunt in the top of the 7th. Crazy. Terry must love the lefty-lefty matchup. This is stupid. Send up Harvey to bunt. Or Marcum. Or Gee.
MG: Could Wheeler be staying in? If no, then bad move.
JP: Collins shook his hand, said great game kid, then got caught unawares and asked him to lay down a sacrifice against a tough left-hander. Poor management.
MG: Poor Atchison.
JP: We hardly knew ye, Scott. So any last thoughts on the debut of our top prospect?
MG: It’s an ace level fastball. To be an ace he will need to control it better. Otherwise he will still be an excellent starter, just not an ace. Curve was better than I expected. Health always the key. In other words, the usual.
JP: Really? Not a lot of enthusiasm. I like him a LOT.
MG: Well if downside is top pitcher, that seems good to me. And with better control, an ace.
JP: One game. His minor league BB/9 ratios were slightly better than Harvey’s.
MG: Forget numbers, he is wilder.
JP: Maybe now, but not when they both came out of the minors. Besides, a little wildness comes with that kind of electric stuff. We knew the curve would be rough coming out of Vegas, pitching in the dry climate.
MG: Fastball moves more than Harvey’s.
JP: I love a fastball that moves like his, even if it gets characterized in some quarters as lack of command. This is what I want from a pitcher. Big talent, huge potential. If he’s a little erratic at times, so be it.
MG: Who is saying otherwise?
JP: I just anticipate a lot of hand-wringing about his control. Complaints about the walks.
MG: Again, no argument, but if he is erratic he is not an ace.
JP: And all I am trying to say is that I am okay with the walks — and that I consider the “control problem” overstated. This is one start. Ace or no ace, that’s not for anyone to decide at this point. He has ace potential. The rest is a matter of time.
MG: Not all potential is reached.
JP: I see the ace question as irrelevant. I don’t think “ace” or “not ace.” But I do try to imagine: Can he win a playoff game? And I think yes he can.
MG: Well, of course. So did Oliver Perez. Yoshii.
JP: You are being contrary. Did you not understand what I meant?
MG: Can he get you to the playoffs is the key. The answer: yes.
JP: No, that’s not the question I asked. In a must game, can you imagine this pitcher as one of the three guys you’d call on to send out in a short series. I think he’s got that in him, in that I can envision it. To your comment, sure, of course, any random guy can win a playoff game. Oh well. We’re not speaking the same language tonight.
MG: Bottom line, I liked what I saw but need to see more. Not more talent, more starts. Just staying grounded.