Foltynewicz traveled to Minneapolis on Monday to prepare to start against the Twins on Tuesday night. The former All-Star posted a 2.67 ERA over the six starts he’s made for Triple-A Gwinnett since being demoted in June.
“With the way Folty was throwing the ball and talking to the Gwinnett staff, they felt he was ready and ready to come impact our staff,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “This is performance-based. We’re in the last two months of the year and at the end of the day, we were going to give Folty an opportunity. This made sense for us.”
This will be a new beginning for Foltynewicz, who posted the National League’s sixth-best ERA (2.85) last year but then saw things unravel when he missed nearly all of Spring Training because of a right elbow bone spur. He made his season debut on April 27 and then posted a 6.37 ERA over 11 starts over the next seven weeks.
Foltynewicz’s concerns about his elbow erased the effectiveness of his slider. Opponents hit .111 (25-for-226) with two homers and a .186 slugging percentage against this pitch in 2018; this year, they have hit .280 (23-for-82) with six homers and a .585 slugging percentage.
When Foltynewicz was demoted to Gwinnett after allowing the Nationals eight earned runs over four innings on June 22, he was visibly frustrated and distraught. He has regained some confidence and displayed an improved slider while posting a 1.13 ERA over his past three starts for Gwinnett.
“I think the results speak for themselves,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s been performing well and throwing the ball well. You don’t know how it will translate at the big league level. But you look at the box scores and you talk to the staff, and they all thought he was the next guy up. He was prepared to come back, and they felt he could help.”
Foltynewicz will now attempt to have the same late-season impact Gausman did last year.
“I’m looking forward to getting him back out there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It looks like every outing has been a little better. His stuff has been good, the command and everything. I’m looking forward to seeing him come and provide a spark here.”
After being acquired from the Orioles before the 2018 Trade Deadline, Gausman helped the Braves win the National League East title. He posted a 1.66 ERA through his first six starts for Atlanta. But he wasn’t included in the postseason rotation after experiencing a September decline (4.98 ERA over his last four starts) that may have foreshadowed this year’s struggles.
Gausman has produced a 6.19 ERA over 16 starts for the Braves. He has allowed at least five earned runs in two of the three starts he’s made since returning from an injured list stint. Prior to that, he allowed 17 earned runs while totaling just 8 1/3 innings over three starts from May 29-June 10.
While on the injured list, Gausman attempted to expand what has been a two-pitch arsenal (four-seam fastball and splitter) this year. The 28-year-old veteran has since ditched plans to use a curveball. He’s encouraged about the potential of the cutter he’s attempting to throw, but it has not yet moved enough to be detected as a cutter by the TrackMan radar system.
Given the potential of his splitter, the Braves thought about moving Gausman to the bullpen. But after adding three veteran relievers before last week’s Trade Deadline, Atlanta no longer had the roster flexibility to move him to that role at the expense of another reliever.
“We talked about it,” Anthopoulos said. “The issue is right now with the way our bullpen is being set up, [Sean] Newcomb is the only one with options. He’s been throwing the ball too well to [be optioned]. From that standpoint, we just didn’t feel that made sense for us to do that.”
Foltynewicz did not arrive before the clubhouse closed prior to Monday’s series opener against the Twins. His return allows the Braves to provide an extra day of rest to Max Fried, who will now start Wednesday’s series finale.
Top prospects promoted: Gwinnett’s roster gained some star power on Monday, when outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, right-handed pitcher Ian Anderson and left-handed pitcher Tucker Davidson were all promoted from Double-A Mississippi.
Swanson update: Dansby Swanson stayed in Atlanta to continue receiving treatment on his bruised right heel. The Braves' shortstop will need to play at least one Minor League rehab game before being activated from the injured list. There is a chance he could return at some point during this weekend’s series in Miami.