Selected in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies, Wheeler established a Tulsa Drillers franchise record with 33 homers in 2011. He also stole 21 bases that season. After that magical Double-A campaign, Wheeler broke the hamate bone in his right hand the following April, requiring surgery. Now in his third Triple-A season with the Sky Sox, Wheeler is looking to recapture the magic he found in Tulsa.
I sat down with Wheeler to talk about that season in Tulsa, his injury, and what he is focusing on in order to get his first-ever Major League call-up.
Kevin Henry: Talk about that season in Tulsa. Was it just the perfect storm when everything came together?
Wheeler: It was just one of those seasons. Everything was consistent and I was getting good counts and good pitches to hit on those counts. It was that way the whole season. I felt comfortable at the plate. I got a reputation in the league as a home run hitter and I was still getting good pitches to hit.
Henry: What about the hamate bone injury? How did that change things for you?
Wheeler: It was really just a bump in the road. Breaking a bone in your hand is a standard injury. I had the problem cut out and got back to working out. At the start, it changed the way my swing felt but it hasn’t affected anything since then. Right after that, I knew I had my strength back.
Henry: Was the timing of the injury a frustration for you?
Wheeler: It was a challenge. Things happen and you have to take them as they come and not get frustrated.
Henry: What has been the main thing you’ve noticed about the jump from Double-A to Triple-A?
Wheeler: The pitching is certainly different. Here, there are a lot of veterans and not as many prospects. Double-A is filled with prospects. In Triple-A, there are pitchers who can consistently throw their secondary pitches for strikes.
Henry: What has been your focus here at Colorado Springs?
Wheeler: Consistency. We have a good team here and I believe in what I’ve been doing and what we’ve been doing as a team. I want to find an approach that I can stick with and focus on that.
Henry: Colorado Springs entered the All-Star break with a 42-54 mark. Has it been a frustrating first half?
Wheeler: No, this team has been through a lot this season. There have been a lot of injuries in Colorado and we’ve had a lot of guys called up. That has messed with our team’s chemistry at times. This is a team filled with good players who come to the park every day and work hard.
Henry: What is your focus for the rest of the season?
Wheeler: Taking things a game at a time. I don’t worry about a call-up. It’s the same game up here as it is there. I have to try to enjoy every day here and focus on being the best player I can be.