LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At some point within the next two weeks, the Braves will determine who will make the Opening Day start that had been reserved for Mike Foltynewicz. But the more important issue is determining exactly when Foltynewicz will be deemed healthy enough to join Atlanta’s rotation.
“He’s feeling great and throwing,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “We were just mapping out his throwing program this morning in terms of bullpens and live bullpens and all those types of things. We’re just trying to figure out when do we get him up to five innings.”
Foltynewicz has not thrown off a mound since experiencing right elbow soreness after he completed two innings in his Feb. 24 spring debut against the Astros. The All-Star hurler has not experienced any setbacks since being cleared to play catch last week. But the fact that he has not done as much as complete a bullpen session over the past two weeks creates reason to believe he might miss more than one turn during the regular season.
If Foltynewicz is cleared to throw off a mound later this week, he’ll need to complete at least two side sessions and throw live batting practice at least once before being cleared to make the first of what could be four preparatory starts. This provides reason to believe his first regular-season start might occur within the Braves’ second homestand (April 11-18).
“He’s not that far removed from throwing, but we still want to be careful about how we build him up,” Anthopoulos said. “If he was coming back as a reliever, he could be ready to go for the first series. But right now, the way it’s trending, it’s going to take a little bit of time in the season to get him stretched out to start.”
With Foltynewicz unavailable, Julio Teheran may end up joining Warren Spahn as the only pitchers in Braves history to make six consecutive Opening Day starts. Kevin Gausman and left-hander Sean Newcomb are also candidates to start the March 28 season opener in Philadelphia. But Teheran seems to be the most likely candidate to gain the honor.
“I know it’s a big deal who gets the Opening Day start,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re just going to line things up with what makes the most sense and gives us the best chance to win.”