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Foltynewicz clears waivers, sent to Braves’ training site in Gwinnett

Braves manager Brian Snitker pulls pitcher Mike Foltynewicz during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins during the inning in an exhibition game Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Braves manager Brian Snitker pulls pitcher Mike Foltynewicz during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins during the inning in an exhibition game Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Mike Foltynewicz’s Braves tenure isn’t over yet.

The Braves outrighted Foltynewicz to their alternate training site in Gwinnett on Thursday afternoon, which meant the right-hander went unclaimed on waivers after he was designated for assignment earlier this week.

If a team had claimed Foltynewicz, it would have owed him almost $2.4 million for the remainder of the shortened campaign. Teams aren’t inclined to take on salary right now for several reasons. But be it for financial and/or performance reasons, the other 29 franchises passed on the Braves’ 2018 All-Star.

“I honestly didn’t know, with everybody needing pitching, if someone would come in and take a chance at him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Remembering how he’d thrown in the past, I thought maybe someone would take a crack at him. We got him back. We’ll put him in Gwinnett at the alternate site and hopefully get him back to where he was.”

Snitker announced the Braves would designate Foltynewicz shortly after his disastrous season debut Monday. Foltynewicz allowed six runs (three homers) over 3-1/3 innings at Tampa Bay. His declining velocity was the greatest concern.

When designated, Foltynewicz was available to the rest of the majors. Under normal circumstances, it’d be easy to see a team taking a shot. Foltynewicz was among the National League’s best starters two seasons ago, and after a rocky start in 2019, he was the team’s best pitcher down the stretch.

For now, Foltynewicz will stay with the Braves. He’s off the 40-man roster and will try to recover his form at the team’s alternate site.

“If he had options, we probably would’ve just optioned him to the alternate site instead of DFA’ing for the same reason: to get himself back going,” Snitker said. “It’s good for him to be able to go there and see if he can get himself going again. Just go and, if he’s not hurting or whatever, get his stuff back. Lord knows we have a long way to go. The more guys you can keep in the system, the better off we’re going to be.”

Foltynewicz has had a bizarre career thus far. He was a hard-throwing but erratic pitching prospect, flashing front-line stuff over his first four seasons but failing to find consistency. He finally broke through in 2018, when he had a 2.85 ERA and struck out 202 over 183 innings.

After a horrific start to 2019, the Braves optioned Foltynewicz to Triple-A. He returned with a vengeance in August, resembling the pitcher from 2018. Foltnewicz pitched seven scoreless innings in a Game 2 victory in the NL Division Series. That good work was undone in Game 5, when he recorded only one out during the Cardinals’ 10-run first inning.

While at the alternate site, expect Foltynewicz to emphasize gaining weight again. He already had mentioned to Snitker that he wanted to add another 15 pounds before the designation. Foltynewicz has appeared much slimmer, which likely affected his velocity.

The 28-year-old has exhibited strikingly low velocity since camp reopened earlier this month. The decline was evident in his intrasquad start, his exhibition outing against the Marlins and his most recent appearance versus the Rays.

After averaging around a 95-mph fastball last season, Foltynewicz’s velocity hovered at 89 on Monday. He peaked at 92 mph. The Braves, referencing an increased urgency during a trimmed season, saw enough to pull the plug.

“He mentioned he was already working to get weight back,” Snitker said. “I think that’s something, too, you have to go about it the right way, in how you train and eat, your diet, the whole thing.

“He’s a power guy. As his velocity improves, the breaking stuff will. Hopefully that’ll take care of it.”