Folty scratched from start with elbow issue

All-Star right-hander to be evaluated Saturday

February 28th, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though there’s a chance it might be a forgotten issue within the next two weeks, the Braves have at least some reason to be concerned about the fact Mike Foltynewicz is already dealing with the elbow discomfort that he occasionally felt during last year’s breakout season.

Foltynewicz has been scratched from Friday’s scheduled start against the Blue Jays, and he will be evaluated by Braves head physician Dr. Gary Lourie on Saturday. The All-Star hurler felt the discomfort after completing two innings in Sunday’s spring debut against the Astros.

“As early as it is, we want to try to calm it down before it becomes something,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “If this was during the [regular] season, he wouldn’t miss a start.”

This is a similar message delivered by countless managers who have attempted to prevent overreaction to an early Spring Training ailment. But it’s worth noting the Braves’ level of concern did not lead them to send Foltynewicz to Atlanta earlier this week to meet with Lourie.

Even though Kevin Gausman has also been slowed because of a sore right shoulder, the Braves have not become concerned enough about either of these ailments to begin thinking about the possibility of pursuing Dallas Keuchel, the former Cy Young Award winner who has not drawn much interest from Atlanta since hitting the free-agent market in November.

Lourie’s evaluation will provide a timetable for Foltynewicz, who would have time to make four exhibition starts before Opening Day if he is cleared to pitch again by March 8. But doing whatever necessary to keep him healthy and productive for the entire regular season is more important than pushing him to be ready for the March 28 season opener in Philadelphia.

“I don’t know when he’ll make the next start,” Snitker said. “But I’d rather they come forward with that stuff early, when there is time to rectify things.”

Foltynewicz informed the Braves his elbow was bothering him after his fastball sat between 92-94 mph during Sunday’s two-inning stint.

As Foltynewicz produced the National League’s fifth-best ERA (2.85) last year, he occasionally indicated he was bothered by a bone spur. He still made 31 starts and his four-seamer averaged 96.3 mph -- the fourth-highest mark generated by any Major League starter who totaled at least 2,000 pitches, per Statcast data.

“It bothered him a little bit last year during the season,” Snitker said. “It’s not anything structural. It’s strong. It’s just something that is bothering him. So, we’re just going to slow play him a little bit.”

The Braves are also slow playing Gausman, who dealt with some right shoulder discomfort during the early days of Spring Training. Gausman’s first spring start has not yet been scheduled, but Snitker indicated he’s confident the veteran hurler will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Bryse Wilson will start in place of Foltynewicz on Friday and extend his bid to become one of the pitching prospects who will likely appear in the Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett rotations throughout the early portion of the season.

Wilson, Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard stand as the MLB-ready prospects capable of filling that fifth spot or accounting for the possibility of Foltynewicz or Gausman not being ready for the start of the regular season.

The organization’s pitching depth also includes top prospect Mike Soroka and Luiz Gohara, who are both currently dealing with shoulder ailments. Soroka suffered a setback during the early days of Spring Training. Gohara is still dealing with the lingering effects of the discomfort that shut him down near the end of last season.