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Braves option struggling Foltynewicz to Triple-A

Atlanta righty's ERA climbs to 6.37 after giving up eight runs to Nats
@mlbbowman
June 23, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Mike Foltynewicz left the Braves little choice but to make a move as he pouted and struggled throughout his ugly four-inning effort in Saturday night’s 13-9 comeback win over Washington at Nationals Park. Now, it’s up to him to make the necessary physical and mental adjustments to earn

WASHINGTON -- Mike Foltynewicz left the Braves little choice but to make a move as he pouted and struggled throughout his ugly four-inning effort in Saturday night’s 13-9 comeback win over Washington at Nationals Park. Now, it’s up to him to make the necessary physical and mental adjustments to earn a chance to return to the Majors.

The Braves optioned Foltynewicz to Triple-A Gwinnett and recalled right-hander Chad Sobotka before Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 win over the Nationals. Foltynewicz allowed eight earned runs and lasted just four innings during Saturday’s comeback win.

“It’s just time to push the reset button and try to get back going,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It wasn’t working here. It’s been a struggle it seems like all year. Nothing ever got going for him. He never got any flow or rhythm. It’s just sometimes you’ve got to take a step back.

“I felt like after the game and how it transpired, the time is now. Hopefully he can get on a roll, get things going and get his confidence back, get guys out and get back to his old self.”

One year after earning his first All-Star selection and getting the nod as Atlanta’s starter in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Foltynewicz now has to make something positive from this humbling demotion. He has a 6.37 ERA through 11 starts and has surrendered 16 home runs through 59 1/3 innings, one less than he surrendered over 183 innings last year.

“He needs to be more consistent mechanically and be able to repeat his delivery and have a consistent release point,” Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. “The stuff is there. There’s no doubt about it. He’s going to be back to form, there’s no question in my mind.”

Foltynewicz seemed to make some progress when he made a mechanical adjustment -- raised his hands and pushed them away from his chest -- after struggling in the first four starts he made after beginning the season on the injured list. The 27-year-old right-hander missed most of Spring Training because of a right elbow spur that bothered him in his Feb. 24 Grapefruit League season debut.

But he posted a 5.45 ERA and allowed opponents to produce an .819 OPS in the seven starts that have followed. Quite simply, he has not looked anything like the guy who produced a 2.85 ERA and limited opponents to a .600 OPS over 31 starts in 2018.

Foltynewicz’s fastball velocity has improved and he’s occasionally shown signs of regaining the slider that was his primary weapon last year. But as he’s reverted to his pre-2018 ways by repeatedly showing signs of agitation when facing inevitable adversity, he has allowed his emotions to get the best of him. Consequently, he’s made it more difficult to repeat his delivery and have a consistent release point.

“I thought he had turned the corner, but I’m seeing signs this year of him going right back to where he was two or three years ago,” Snitker said. “Nobody can take care of that other than him. He has to be the one who controls that.”

Foltynewicz showed maturity when he held himself accountable as he spoke Saturday night about the negative body language he’d displayed during his four-inning performance.

“I’ve got a 7-ERA on a first-place team,” Foltynewicz said. “It’s just tough. I’m battling every night. It’s just tough. It’s just the person I am. I’m going to wear that stuff on my sleeve, especially when things aren’t going my way. It’s just tough. It’s all my fault, too.”

The offensively potent Braves entered Sunday with a 5 1/2-game lead in the NL East despite the fact that three of their veteran starters have either been demoted or sidelined by struggles this season. Foltynewicz is heading to Triple-A. Sean Newcomb has moved to a relief role and Kevin Gausman is recovering from the plantar fasciitis that developed when he suffered a third straight horrific start earlier this month.

Newcomb will return to the bullpen when he is activated from the seven-day concussion injured list on Tuesday. The left-hander did not experience any setbacks during or after an impressive two-inning performance in a rehab stint for Gwinnett on Saturday.

The Braves have not decided who will start in Foltynewicz’s place at Wrigley Field against the Cubs on Thursday afternoon. Bryse Wilson, the Braves' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, seems like a prime candidate to be promoted from Gwinnett. He tossed six scoreless innings during Saturday’s win over Syracuse.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.