Braves: Foltynewicz will not be ready for opening day
The All-Star right-hander has yet to make an appearance in a spring training game because of discomfort in his elbow that began about two weeks ago. While not believed to be a serious issue, Foltynewicz was forced to push back his throwing schedule.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Monday the team has been mapping out his routine for the next several weeks, but that won’t leave enough to time for him to be ready for the March 28 opener at NL East rival Philadelphia.
“We’re just trying to figure out at what point do we get him up to five innings?” Anthopoulos said. “He’s not that far removed from throwing (off the mound), but we still want to be careful how we build him up. If he was going to come back as a reliever, he’d be ready to go that first series. But right now, the way it’s trending, it’s going to take a little bit of time in the season to get him stretched out to start.”
Foltynewicz was expected to make his first opening-day start after emerging as Atlanta’s top starter last year, when he went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and was selected for his first All-Star Game. He recorded 202 strikeouts in 183 innings for the Braves, who won the NL East title and made their first playoff appearance since 2013..
“Philadelphia has a lot of right-handed bats,” Anthopoulos said. “Obviously, Bryce (Harper) is fantastic from the left side, but it is a right-handed-hitting team. Certain guys do line up well with right-handers. That being said, we’re playing more than one game against them. I know it’s a big deal who gets the opening-day start. We’ll just line things up and see who gives us the best chance to win.”
The Braves have been plagued by nagging injuries during spring training, which has altered the throwing schedule for pitchers such as A.J. Minter, Darren O’Day, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Kevin Gausman. But Anthopoulos said all are expected to be ready to pitch by opening day.
The team is keeping a close eye on Minter, who had 15 saves last season and is competing for a spot as the closer. He hurt his left shoulder in a minor car accident about two weeks ago.
“Being left handed, the seat belt is over on the left side and he said he felt it on top of the shoulder,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s moving in the right direction, feeling better. Because he’s a reliever and we’re building him up to throw an inning, we have time.”
Minter is scheduled to return to the mound this weekend.
“Assuming he feels good, we can progress and move pretty fast after that, “Anthopoulos said. “Obviously, it’s a day-to-day thing. We’ll see how he’s progressing. But we’re still optimistic that he could be ready to go by” the first game.
Though the Braves will only need four starters early in the season because of multiple off days, Foltynewicz’s absence could open a spot for one of the numerous young pitchers competing for a spot in the rotation. In the early going, 23-year-old Kyle Wright has been especially impressive, throwing five scoreless innings in his first two spring appearances, with no walks and six strikeouts.
While the former first-round pick was expected to spend at least one more year in the minors, he could change that timeline if he continues to shine in spring training.
“We believe in him long term,” Anthopoulos said. “But I wouldn’t have told you that I would have thought coming into camp that he’d be right there battling for a rotation spot the way he’s throwing. … I’m curious to see if he can keep it going. But he looks great, his stuff looks great. He’s right there in the mix the way he’s throwing the ball.”