Posted on June 23, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves made a bold change to their pitching staff on Sunday. The club demoted starter Mike Foltynewicz to triple-A one day after he allowed eight runs on eight hits against the Nationals, despite the Braves coming back to win the game. The move is a low point for Foltynewicz, who is just one year removed from being an all-star and the leader of Atlanta’s pitching staff.
“I’ve got a 7 ERA on a first-place team,” Foltynewicz said Saturday’s game. “It’s just tough. I’m battling every night. It’s just tough. It’s just the person I am. I’m going to wear that stuff on my sleeve, especially when things aren’t going my way. It’s just tough. It’s all my fault too.”
A year ago, Foltynewicz was brilliant. He made 31 starts for the Braves, going 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA, including two complete games. Despite not being the team’s opening day starter, the Braves were expecting Foltynewicz to be the ace of an otherwise young rotation. However, things have not played out that way.
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The 27-year-old Foltynewicz has struggled from the get-go this season. He missed the first month of the season due to a bone spur in his elbow and has never been able to get on track. In 11 starts, he’s 2-5 with a 6.37 ERA. He’s had a couple of strong outings but has allowed at least four earned runs in six of his 11 starts. With the Braves holding a 6.5-game lead atop the NL East, the Braves have decided to let Foltynewicz find himself at triple-A rather than continue to struggle in the minors.
“It’s just time to push the reset button and try to get back going,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Foltynewicz. “It wasn’t working here. It’s been a struggle it seems like all year. Nothing ever got going for him. He never got any flow or rhythm. It’s just sometimes you’ve got to take a step back.”
After struggling in his first few starts of the season, the Braves had Foltynewicz make a mechanical change. But that alteration to his delivery hasn’t made a difference. He has struggled to keep his composure on the mound, which has then made it difficult for him to repeat his delivery. If he can fix those issues, the Braves are confident the Foltynewicz they saw last season will return. However, he has some work to do to get there.
“I thought he had turned the corner, but I’m seeing signs this year of him going right back to where he was two or three years ago,” said Snitker. “Nobody can take care of that other than him. He has to be the one who controls that.”
While Foltynewicz has struggles, the Braves have gotten strong performances from starters Julio Teheran, Mike Soroka, and Max Fried. The club also added Dallas Keuchel to the starting rotation earlier this week, putting them in good shape without Foltynewicz. The Braves also have several young pitchers who may have a chance to audition for a rotation spot is in the minors.
However, Foltynewicz is still an important part of the equation for the Braves. He was Atlanta’s ace last season and someone capable of pitching like a frontline starter. If he can get back on track and regain the form he had last season, Foltynewicz can return later in the year to potentially help the Braves close out the NL East and become a team to watch in the postseason.