‘Folty’ has added motivation after arbitration case

Mike Foltynewicz lost his arbitration case against the Braves on Saturday, the same day he became a first-time dad. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)
Mike Foltynewicz lost his arbitration case against the Braves on Saturday, the same day he became a first-time dad. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Losing his arbitration case against the Braves last week wasn’t what bothered pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, it was looking over during the hearing and seeing no one he recognized from the team in attendance.

The team actually had two of its front-office representatives in addition to an outsider attorney at the hearing, but Foltynewicz apparently didn’t recognize any of them and was under the impression Tuesday that the team basically blew off the hearing.

“It would have been nice if someone from the Braves were actually there,” Foltynewicz said as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Tuesday. “I took a couple of days out of my schedule to go out to Arizona and go sit there. The world knows it wasn’t a big amount of money we were fighting over, but it would have been nice if they would have been there to sit with their lawyers and tell me why we don’t deserve this contract and this raise. It would have been nice.

“I took time out of my day, and almost missed my son being born. It’s just a respect thing. But at the end of the day, we’re here (at spring training), no worries, business is business. Just focus on getting out there, getting better and getting wins for the Braves.”

The Braves were represented at the hearing by chief legal officer Greg Heller and Danielle Monday, a baseball-operations assistant.

The difference between the amount that Foltynewicz asked for ($2.3 million) and what the Braves offered ($2.2 million) was the smallest spread between player and team among any of this year’s major league arbitration cases. The arbitration panel, which decide on one salary or the other, went with the smaller amount.

It was his first year of arbitration after going 10-13 with a 4.79 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) in 2017, when he missed the last two weeks of the season with a cut finger.

Foltynewicz found out about the hearing outcome Saturday only hours after his wife, Brittany, gave birth to their first child, a boy named Jett, who was three weeks premature. Labor was induced, and mother and child are healthy and back at the Orlando place that Foltynewicz is renting this spring.

The couple lives in Atlanta, but came to Orlando together Feb. 1 in advance of spring training, to assure she would be nearby when the baby was born and Foltynewicz could be there rather than trying to fly home from spring training if she went into labor. On the day (Thursday) she checked into the hospital, he flew to Arizona for the arbitration hearing and said he felt terrible leaving, but was assured at the hospital that delivery could be delayed until he returned.

He flew back Friday night, arrived after midnight and went straight to the hospital, where Brittany gave birth Saturday morning.

“At the end of the day, my son’s here now,” said Foltynewicz, who called the event “life-changing” and said he was speechless the first time he held his son. “When they called me to tell me (they lost the case), it didn’t matter. I mean, my son was born that Saturday. I didn’t really care, like I told my agents, just put that behind us. Just get to work.”

He said he was glad he went to the hearing because it allowed him to meet people and see how the process works. Players are told by the players’ association to attend arbitration hearings and be involved in the process. Foltynewicz said there were representatives from Major League Baseball and the players’ association at the hearing.

“My dudes (lawyers, agent) were there,” he said. “No one from the Braves. It would have been nice for them to zip over there and tell me why I didn’t deserve it instead of being where they were. I travelled out there, took a couple of days out of my time even from throwing, getting better. We took some time off just to go out there and fight for what I thought I was worth. They didn’t think it, so it would have been cool if they would have been out there to back it up.

“But, no worries, just put my head down and go to work. Little dude’s here. Go to work and try to make this team better.”

Foltynewicz, 26, is coming off a season of extreme highs and lows. He went 9-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 14 starts from May 12 through July 25 – the best stretch of pitching in his career -- but was 1-8 with a 7.27 ERA and .307 opponents’ average in his last nine starts, pitching decently in a few losses in that period but lasting fewer than six innings in all but three games.

“I thought I did reasonably well (during the rough stretch at the end), enough not to kill my confidence going into the offseason,” he said. “I think I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in for a while, even though I lost a little weight. But everything’s working good. I’m not happy about the way things ended; this (the cut) wasn’t a big deal, so I got that taken care of. Now we’re just focusing on putting guys away with two strikes, not wasting pitches, not falling behind when we get to two strikes and all that.

“I know what I can do, know what I’m capable of, how big of a stretch I can put together. So it’s just doing that all year.”