Foltynewicz makes two-inning spring debut

Braves' likely Opening Day starter surrenders unearned run vs. Astros

February 24th, 2019

Simplifying his mechanics helped Mike Foltynewicz prove he can be one of baseball's top starting pitchers. But his ability to better harness his emotions equally influenced last season's success.

Instead of just getting in his work while making his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday afternoon against the Astros, Foltynewicz had to show he does handle adversity better than he did in the past.

"Really it's about slowing things down if things don't go right or if something doesn't go my way," said Foltynewicz, who is expected to serve as Atlanta's Opening Day starter on March 28.

Like Max Scherzer and some of the game's other aces, Foltynewicz has a personality that does not allow him to fully shield his emotions. But instead of kicking the mound, flailing his arms or staring at umpires as frequently as he did before last season, Foltynewicz is reacting to adversity in a more efficient manner.

He passed the first test on Sunday during what could have been a scoreless first inning. Josh Reddick hit a one-out double to deep right and scored on third baseman Sean Kazmar's throwing error. Foltynewicz then grazed Robinson Chirinos with a fastball and walked Derek Fisher before getting Jake Marisnick to fly out with the bases loaded.

"I got mad one time last year, and [Tyler Flowers] came out and said, 'You get yourself under control after one pitch rather than three batters,'" Foltynewicz said. "It's something funny like that, but you realize that really looks bad because within the three batters you could have given up three runs right there."

Even though Foltynewicz limited the damage, he can look back at last season and understand how much better it might have been had he gotten through a couple of rough frames in a more timely manner.

Foltynewicz surrendered two earned runs or fewer in 15 of his 18 starts before the All-Star break. He allowed at least five earned runs in the other three starts, and in each instance the runs were tallied in one inning. The ugly innings proved even rarer as he posted a 2.55 ERA over his final 11 starts and exited the season with a 2.85 ERA -- the lowest mark posted by a Braves pitcher with at least 30 starts since Tim Hudson's 2.83 ERA in 2010.


Youthful duty

Being the young guys, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies were the Braves' regulars chosen to make the nearly three-hour drive to West Palm Beach, Fla., for Sunday's game.

Albies singled from the right side of the plate in the first inning and grounded out from the left side in the fourth. Acuna also made two plate appearances. The 21-year-old outfielder walked in the first inning and struck out in the third.

Muller's debut

After Bryse Wilson recorded a pair of strikeouts over two innings on Sunday, Kyle Muller provided a glimpse of why some believe he could possibly join Atlanta's bullpen at some point this summer.

Making his first appearance of the year, Muller recorded a pair of strikeouts during a perfect sixth inning. The big left-hander will likely serve as a starter when he begins the season with Double-A Mississippi or Triple-A Gwinnett. But he might eventually fit best as a reliever in Atlanta's pitching-rich organization.

Up next

Josh Donaldson is expected to make his Braves debut as manager Brian Snitker plans to have many of his regulars in the lineup for Monday's home opener against the Nationals at 1:05 p.m. ET. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are also expected to make their Grapefruit League debuts. Rotation candidate Max Fried will get the start.