JUPITER, Fla. -- As Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz spent this offseason evaluating how he could take the next step toward his potential to become a legitimate frontline starting pitcher, he determined he needed to enhance his aggression level and also make a more concerted effort to prevent allowing his emotions to get the best of him.
"You don't necessarily have to be a [jerk] out there, but you've got to have that confidence you can get guys out," Foltynewicz said. "I need to get that back on my side a little bit. I was like that and then once you develop relationships, you kind of ease up a little bit when you're pitching against guys you've played with or have watched on TV. But you can't do that. You've got to bring that same mentality, just like you were going to take someone's head off every game. That's what I've done thus far in the spring and that's how I'm going to continue to go in the season."
Foltynewicz extended his recent success as he allowed just one run while completing four innings as the Braves tied the Cardinals 2-2 on Saturday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium. The 25-year-old right-hander is prepping for what could be his first full season within a Major League rotation and attempting to gain the consistency he lacked as he posted a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts for Atlanta last year.
Showing an improved ability to command his offspeed pitches when behind in the count, Foltynewicz has allowed just two runs and six hits through his first nine Grapefruit League innings (three starts). The lone run he surrendered on Saturday came courtesy of Matt Adams' one-out homer in the fourth.
"I know he's aware that he needs to keep things in check and not let things spiral out of control," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There were a couple times today where it was teetering that way, but he kept himself together. That's big. Every game you pitch, there's going to be times where you're going to have to keep yourself in check and not allow one pitch to determine the outcome of an at-bat."
Foltynewicz looked like a potential ace in some of last year's starts, namely a July 10 outing during which he recorded 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against the White Sox. But then he produced a 4.72 ERA after the All-Star break, and proved he was still far from a finished product.
Having had a chance to evaluate what occurred last season, Foltynewicz knows he often hurt himself when he animatedly objected to an umpire's call or allowed the result of a previous pitch or play affect how he approached some of the pitches that followed.
"I just have a whole new mentality and way about going into the game," Foltynewicz said. "You've got to have that killer instinct, but you can't go out there like a chicken with your head cut off. I've got to settle down a little bit with me getting upset with the umps and all of that stuff. That's the next step too, just calming down, getting under control and focusing on getting the next guy."