Foltynewicz rejoins Braves in relief role
Righty struggled as starter earlier in year, but move to 'pen may not be permanent
MILWAUKEE -- Mike Foltynewicz returned to the Major League level Tuesday primarily because the Braves want to carry an extra bullpen arm when they spend this weekend at Denver's Coors Field, the offensive haven that can take its toll on pitching staffs.
But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he is receptive to the possibility of keeping Foltynewicz in the bullpen after the All-Star break concludes next week.
"I'm going to leave it wide open," Gonzalez said before Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Brewers. "Why not? If we use him two or three times in the next six days and he's doing well, we've got to talk about it."
To stay in the bullpen, Foltynewicz will have to prove more effective than he was Tuesday. He allowed two hits and issued a walk while allowing a run and recording just two outs in the seventh inning. But this was his first relief appearance of the year and it came just three days after he threw 104 pitches over six innings for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Foltynewicz was recalled before the game, with the Braves creating a roster spot for him by optioning utility man Joey Terdoslavich to Gwinnett.
Dating back to January when Foltynewicz was acquired from the Astros, there has been speculation that he was best suited to serve as a reliever on a long-term basis. But the Braves have not reached that point where they have given up on the idea of using the hard-throwing right-hander as a starter.
Though Foltynewicz impressed near the end of May, his inability to consistently command his offspeed pitches led him to produce a 5.19 ERA in nine starts for Atlanta. Thoughts of allowing him to continue taking his lumps at the Major League level evaporated when, upset with himself, he walked off the field while completing a side session at Fenway Park on June 15. He was optioned to Gwinnett two days later.
Gonzalez said he might provide Foltynewicz some multi-inning relief appearances or potentially allow him to show off his plus fastball and slider while serving as a setup man. The latter option could provide some relief to Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson, who entered Tuesday tied for the Major League lead in appearances (43).
"If he's doing well, he can stay and somebody else could go," Gonzalez said. "You know how that goes. We're not afraid to do that."
The Braves have used 20 relievers, and that does not count three relievers -- Foltynewicz, Arodys Vizcaino and David Carpenter -- who were in the bullpen Tuesday night.
Atlanta's relief corps could undergo a few more alterations over the next few weeks. The Braves will evaluate trade offers for closer Jason Grilli and Johnson. They'll also soon welcome Andrew McKirahan back from a 80-game suspension and potentially transition Manny Banuelos to a relief role to keep him under his innings limit.