MILWAUKEE – There has been some discussion among Braves officials, and surely Astros officials before them, as to whether Mike Foltynewicz was best suited long-term for the rotation or bullpen, where his high-90s fastball might serve him well in a setup or closer role.
But the decision to recall Foltynewicz from Triple-A Gwinnett for a bullpen addition this week before the All-Star break wasn’t made with long-term plans in mind. The Braves wanted to add an extra arm to the bullpen for the last five games leading into the All-Star break, for a couple of reasons: Four of those games will be played at hitter-friendly Colorado, and the Braves have two rookies in the current starting rotation, Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos, whose innings are being monitored.
Foltynewicz was told late Monday and caught a flight to Milwaukee early Tuesday, while bench player Joey Terdoslavich was optioned back to Gwinnett to open the roster spot. Foltynewicz had made four starts at Gwinnett since being dropped from Atlanta’s rotation in mid-June and manager Fredi Gonzalez said recalling him for the bullpen wasn’t discussed recently until Monday.
“We saw that his turn was coming up Friday, and we were sitting there talking baseball, with the coaches,” Gonzalez said. “And (bench coach) Carlos (Tosca) goes, ‘You know, we’re going to Colorado, a four-game set. You think it would be a good idea to bring an extra arm?’ So we kicked it around and we made a decision.”
Gonzalez ran the idea by assistant general manager John Coppolella, who is with the Braves on the current trip. “Coppy” called John Hart Monday night, and Foltynewicz was soon notified to pack a bag and get on a flight to Milwaukee, that he was going back to pitch out of the bullpen.
Foltynewicz was 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in nine starts with the Braves earlier this season, but he made his major league debut last season as a reliever with the Astros, posting a 5.30 ERA in 16 relief appearances in August and September, with 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 2/3 innings.
As a starter this season, he most often ran into trouble the second or third time through a lineup. With that in mind, at this point in his development he might possibly have more success as a reliever.
“Use him anywhere in the bullpen,” Gonzalez said. “And we’ve got two young (starters), too, Wisler and Banuelos, that you’ve got to take care of. And so, we can use him as a two-inning guy, three-inning guy. Or we can use him as an eighth-inning guy, come in and (throw hard). Wherever we can use him.”
As for Foltynewicz’ status beyond next week’s All-Star break, Gonzalez said that hadn’t been determined. If he pitches well this week, however, there is at least a reasonable chance he could stick around in a bullpen role for a while. But the Braves aren’t likely to carry an extra reliever beyond the Colorado series, and they also have rookie left-hander Andrew McKirahan coming back July 20 from an 80-game drug suspension.
“We’ll figure it out after the break,” Gonzalez said. “If (Foltynewicz) is doing well, he stays, somebody else goes.”
Foltynewicz was 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts at Gwinnett after being sent down last month. He gave up seven hits, seven earned runs and two homers in six innings of his first start after the demotion, then allowed nine runs (four earned) and three homers in 18 innings over his past three starts.
Walks continued to be an issue at Gwinnett, where Foltynewicz issued 14 walks in 24 innings of his past four starts, including at least three in each game.
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