Mike Foltynewicz finds strikeout groove, continues scoreless spring

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz has produced a scoreless spring thus far, with strikeouts the only nitpicky weak point.

So he addressed that blemish Thursday while extending his scoreless streak to 14 innings.

Foltynewicz went five frames, allowing no hits with one walk against the Tigers. But perhaps most notably, he struck out five.

The right-hander had just two strikeouts across nine innings before his most recent outing, and after watching Sean Newcomb mow down the Phillies with six strikeouts on Monday, he found extra motivation to get those numbers up.

“The strikeouts are coming,” he said. “I’m just picking my pitches a little better just over the years, getting the two-strike pitches where I wanted them. Got a couple up in the zone, the strikeouts. The change-ups were down, started at the knees, I got some swings and misses on that. Very nice to see the strikeouts happen.”

The only walk Foltynewicz issued was to Miguel Cabrera, and that wasn’t the worst result, according to the 26-year-old.

“I didn’t care if I walked him or not,” Foltynewicz said with a grin. “He’s the best hitter in the game. He can go on first base. And the confidence with that, too, ‘I’m going to get this next guy.’”

Foltynewicz’s promising 2017 season was spoiled by slow demise: The team lost his final seven starts, with Foltynewicz giving up three or more runs in five of those starts, and six or more runs in three, before he was shutdown with a lacerated finger on his pitching hand.

He came to Florida with a renewed focus and emphasis on first-pitch strikes and finishing hitters with two strikes, an area in which he’s struggled.

“That was really good today,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I was talking to (pitching coach) Chuck (Hernandez) and just, he was in control of everything. You don’t have to be pinpoint, but some really good change-ups -- breaking ball was good. Just a real nice outing.”

Foltynewicz’s current spring stats: 14 innings, seven strikeouts, three hits and four walks across four starts – plus the goose egg for an ERA.

“When you’re feeling this good and this confident, you wish you could get out there now (for the regular season),” Foltynewicz said. “But there’s still a couple weeks left and a lot of things to work on. I’m excited to work on them and get better with them so I can go out there in the regular season and do the same thing.”

Though the team hasn’t made it official, Foltynewicz will be the No. 2 starter, slotted between Julio Teheran and newcomer Brandon McCarthy.