Spring training is going much better for Mike Foltynewicz this year

Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz’s erratic 2019 season got an ominous start in his first – and only – spring training game last year.

“I was ripping sliders a lot (that day),” he recalled Saturday. “That’s our competitive nature. We just want to get guys out.”

The result, however, was that Foltynewicz’s over-aggressiveness in that Feb. 24, 2019, exhibition game against the Houston Astros aggravated the bone spurs in his right elbow, causing him to miss the rest of spring training and the start of the regular season last year.

This spring is going much better for him.

Foltynewicz made his third exhibition start of 2020 on Saturday, holding the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless in 3-2/3 innings of work, his longest and best outing of the spring. He allowed one hit, walked two, hit two batters with pitches and, impressively, struck out six.

Learning last year’s lesson, Foltynewicz took a more cautious and calculated approach at the start of spring training this year.

“(We were) a lot more smart about this,” Foltynewicz said. “I think my first outing we only threw two sliders. I didn’t really start throwing my slider until I got down here in spring training.

“This spring has been, knock on wood, very fun. It has been healthy. (I am) being smart, just listening to my body and going from there. I haven’t had any setbacks yet, no problems, and that’s just the way we should have been the whole time.”

Foltynewicz threw all of his pitches Saturday, including sliders without hesitation, and was pleased with his repertoire. He threw 67 pitches, including 41 strikes.

“I told Jack (catcher Alex Jackson) before the game, ‘Let’s mix everything in today. Let’s start throwing all of it,’” Foltynewicz said. “Because it’s March 7, and we’re getting pretty close to game time,’” meaning the March 26 regular-season opener.

“I’m right where I need to be right now, doing great maintenance on my arm.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker was encouraged by Foltynewicz’s latest performance.

“I thought overall the outing was really, really good,” Snitker said. “There was a big difference from last time (when Foltynewicz allowed three runs in 1-1/3 innings against the Red Sox on March 1). His stuff was really good.”

Notes from spring training: 

 Saturday's game at CoolToday Park was called after nine innings with the score tied 1-1. The Braves got their run in the bottom of the ninth on a leadoff triple to deep left-center field by outfield prospect Cristian Pache and a sacrifice fly by Yangervis Solarte. "He is maturing as a player," Snitker said of Pache. "I don't think he's there yet, but I'm hoping that at some point in time, if we need help over the course of the summer, he's ready to go."

 Ronald Acuna didn't play Saturday as Nick Markakis started in right field. "Trying to work all the outfielders in and not wear anybody out," Snitker said before the game. "It's challenging with all those guys to do everybody justice." Acuna is 2-for-21 (.095) in exhibition games, with eight strikeouts.

 Marcell Ozuna was 0-for-2 on Saturday, falling to 1-for-18 (.056) with nine strikeouts for the spring.

 Reliever A.J. Minter pitched in a game for the first time this year. He surrendered a hit, a walk and an unearned run in two-thirds of an inning.

  Ozzie Albies lined into a 6-3-4 (shortstop to first base to second base) triple play in the sixth inning.

 Adeiny Hechavarria started at shortstop for the Braves after he was sidelined nine days with a sore oblique muscle. He singled in his first at-bat.

 The Braves play the New York Yankees on Sunday in Tampa. Sean Newcomb, vying for a spot in the Braves' starting rotation, is scheduled to start the game.