LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Braves are still evaluating whether to have Mike Foltynewicz open the season as their No. 5 starter, and his performance Monday night might’ve convinced them he could use a bit more time to prepare.
Foltynewicz gave up four homers in just three innings of a 12-9 loss against his former Houston Astros team at Champion Stadium in his next-to-last scheduled spring start. The right-hander was charged with six hits and six runs (five earned) with no walks and two strikeouts.
“They’re a good lineup, plus they’re ambushing a little earlier today than I thought they would,” said Foltynewicz, who had five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings (two hits, one run) when he faced Houston six days earlier. “I’ve just got to locate better. Curveball, slider wasn’t there at all today. Lucky that I had my changeup or all I would’ve had was my fastball, and I wasn’t really locating that too well.”
George Springer homered on the first pitch of the game, Carlos Gomez and Preston Tucker hit consecutive homers to start the second inning, and Colin Moran hit a two-run homer in the third inning against Foltynewicz. Springer also homered in the fourth off Williams Perez.
It was the third game of the spring for “Folty,” who came to camp a couple of weeks behind other pitchers after having season-ending surgery in September to remove part of a rib following a serious issue with blood clots in his pitching arm.
“It’s only my third time out against live hitters,” he said. “I’m getting there slowly, and we’ll just take it day by day, get the ball down (in the strike zone) in the bullpen next outing and next game, and go from there.”
He didn’t pitch in a game until March 17, but was so impressive March 22 against the Astros, consistently throwing 97-mph fastballs down in the zone, that the Braves have been discussing whether he might be their best option to start April 12, the first time they need a fifth starter.
They might instead decide to give Foltynewicz an extra minor-league rehab start and have him debut at least a couple of days later and perhaps not for another week or more.
“Just slowly and surely, just try to get my arm strength back,” Foltynewicz said. “It’s tough — all my hard work and then that happens out there. But that’s baseball. We’re slowing getting there.”
Others competing for the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation are non-roster invitee Jhoulys Chacin, Perez and possibly prospect John Gant, who had been considered more of a long-relief option for Atlanta if he’s not in a minor league rotation. That could change, given the way things are going.