Touted Foltynewicz earns win in his first start
ATLANTA -- Experiencing his first Major League start did not feel nearly as foreign to Mike Foltynewicz as stepping into the batter's box. But the highly regarded pitching prospect handled both challenges in a successful manner and gave the Braves more reason to be excited about the possibility that he will be a part of their starting rotation for many years to come.
"There's a lot to like about him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a guy that has all the ability. He's got a good fastball and he's a big strong kid. He's a young guy with a lot of upside."
Foltynewicz earned his first career victory and notched his first career hit while experiencing his much-anticipated Braves debut during Friday night's 4-3 win over the Reds at Turner Field. The hard-throwing right-hander navigated his way through trouble over five innings and delivered the evening's biggest surprise when he drilled a two-out, two-run double off Anthony DeSclafani in the fourth inning.
Video: [email protected]: Foltynewicz's first MLB hit plates a pair
DeSclafani entered the night having limited opponents to a .154 batting average. In other words, he provided a stiff challenge to most hitters, especially someone like Foltynewicz, who before Friday had not recorded an official plate appearance since completing his 2010 senior season at Minooka (Ill.) High School.
"It was awesome," said Foltynewicz, who is ranked as the Braves' third-best prospect by MLB.com. "I didn't even feel anything. It was something that was really cool to do."
Still, while Foltynewicz's double provided a lasting memory, his most significant impact came via the composure he showed after surrendering two runs and three stolen bases during a 28-pitch first inning that concluded with Kelly Johnson catching Marlon Byrd's near-grand slam along the left-center-field wall.
After being admittedly affected by nerves during the first inning, Foltynewicz surrendered just one unearned run over the remainder of his five-inning stint. He pitched around Billy Hamilton's two-out double in the second inning and minimized damage after the Reds put two on with none out in the fourth inning.
Video: [email protected]: Foltynewicz, Johnson on Braves' win
"It could have gone a lot worse, and it could have been a lot better, but I'm just happy to get out of there with the win," Foltynewicz said. "I knew going into it if I only gave up two or three runs, this offense would come back and score some runs."
When the Braves acquired Foltynewicz from the Astros in January, they were hoping he would begin this season in their rotation. But after evaluating him in Spring Training, they opted to send him to Triple-A Gwinnett to harness his command and refine his secondary pitches.
During his four-start stint with Gwinnett, Foltynewicz added a hip turn to his delivery to keep him from rushing toward the plate. While the adjustment improved his command, as evidenced by the 45 strikes he notched with his final 66 pitches on Friday, it also made him prone to opposing baserunners, as evidenced by the five stolen bases (none by Hamilton) the Reds recorded against him.
"That's something we need to work on," Gonzalez said. "We need to clean that up a little bit."
Still, by the end of this successful debut, there was little reason for the Braves to complain about what they saw from this highly regarded prospect, who will spend the next few weeks attempting to prove he is indeed ready to prove successful at the Major League level.
"You just dream about pitching in the Major Leagues, and getting a win is pretty incredible," Foltynewicz said. "My teammates and I celebrated. So it was pretty fun. It was awesome."