LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After Mike Foltynewicz progressed much quicker than expected, the Braves began to think he could be ready to begin the season as their fifth starter. But they have now reverted back to their original plan to give the promising right-hander a chance to make up
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After Mike Foltynewicz progressed much quicker than expected, the Braves began to think he could be ready to begin the season as their fifth starter. But they have now reverted back to their original plan to give the promising right-hander a chance to make up for the time he lost while recovering from a blood clot.
Foltynewicz actually seemed relieved when he learned on Wednesday morning that he had been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. He will now have time to regain some more strength and refine his command, which proved problematic as he allowed four home runs in just three innings on Monday against the Astros.
"I'm not even close to being ready," Foltynewicz said. "So I'm just going to go get my work in and try to build me back up. I'll still take it day by day with how my arm feels and all of that. I'll go to Gwinnett and pitch and hopefully get ready for the season."
In other words, the Braves are going to utilize the plan that was in place before Foltynewicz opened some eyes with the impressive 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball he completed during a March 22 start against the Astros. Despite the fact that he had come to Spring Training at least two weeks behind schedule, that outing provided some reason to believe he might be ready by April 12, when the Braves will first need to utilize a fifth starter.
But as Foltynewicz struggled during Monday's outing against the Astros, the Braves took a step back and determined there was no need to rush the 24-year-old, who had a portion of his rib removed when the blood clot was discovered in September.
"[Foltynewicz] is not ready and it would be a disservice to try to push him and try to get him stretched out," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We think the world of him. We think he could be a starter for us whenever he is ready."
Jhoulys Chacin, Williams Perez and John Gant now stand as the final candidates for the two open spots in Atlanta's rotation. There is a chance all three could make the Opening Day roster with two of the pitchers being available out of the bullpen during the season's first few games.
Gonzalez did not completely rule out the possibility Foltynewicz will be ready to join Atlanta's rotation by April 12, but he acknowledged that it is more likely that Foltynewicz would need at least another week to be deemed ready to pitch in the Majors.
Foltynewicz opened last season as the Braves' top pitching prospect and then occasionally showed some of his potential as he posted a 5.68 ERA over 15 starts for Atlanta. The hard-throwing right-hander seemed much more composed during Spring Training this year. But the time he lost while spending most of the winter on blood thinners ultimately made it improbable for him to be ready for the start of the regular season.
"I've got a little time to get back," Foltynewicz said. "You can clearly tell that I'm not really there with pitching. Throwing, my arm feels good and all of that, but we've got to get back to pitching and locating and not allow the four home runs to happen during the season. So we'll get all of that out of the way now and focus on pitching and hitting my spots."
• The Braves reassigned catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Blake Lalli to Minor League camp on Wednesday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.