Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz on Tuesday began his audition for the final rotation spot by pitching two scoreless innings against the Cardinals.
The Braves signed three veteran starting pitchers to join the rotation this season behind ace Julio Teheran. That leaves Foltynewicz vying for a slot after he started 22 games in 2016 and posted a 4.31 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 35 walks over 123 1/3 innings.
“I knew coming in it wasn’t going to be handed to me,” Foltynewicz said. “I’m just going to go out there and work my butt off like I do every day. Especially this year, with being healthy and not playing catch up, I’m going to go out there and do all I can to try to win a spot. Do the best I can and let everything else take care of itself.”
Foltynewicz allowed one hit and walk in the first inning and pitched a perfect second. He limited the damage in the first inning with some alert defense.
After lead-off hitter Magneuris Sierra singled, Foltynewicz picked him off first base. Kolten Wong followed with a single and Stephen Piscotty walked to bring up Matt Adams.
Foltynewicz caught Wong taking a big lead off second base and ran at him to start a rundown. Third baseman Rio Ruiz tagged Wong before turning and throwing to first to get Piscotty, who was scurrying back after trying to take second.
“That’s the reason why we get here at 7, 8 (am) and practice two or three hours before the game,” Foltynewicz said. “That’s the stuff that saves you a game, saves you a (big) inning. That could have been easily a multi-run inning. With the pick off and the head’s up play at third, that got me out of a jam there.”
In the second inning Foltynewicz struck out Adams and retired Jedd Gyorko and Jose Martinez on ground ball outs. He threw 31 pitches over the two innings with 19 strikes.
“The curveball was good,” Foltynewicz said. “The slider wasn’t really there. The change-up was good. Everything was around the zone so I was kind of happy with it.”
Foltynewicz is enjoying good health this spring after injuries set him back last year.
His 2015 season ended in September when life-threatening blood clots were discovered in his throwing shoulder. Foltynewicz had surgery to remove part of a rib under the shoulder and was still recovering when spring training began in 2016.
Foltynewicz went on the disabled list in late May 2016 because of soreness in his right elbow and missed two turns in September after a batted ball bruised his left calf muscle.
“It’s just good to be healthy out there throwing every single day and not playing catch-up with everybody else and getting my daily work in,” he said. “It’s awesome to be out there and be normal and competing for a spot.”
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