Friday night Mike Foltynewicz made his Atlanta Braves debut. It was more than just a pitcher making the first start of his career, or the first appearance for his new team. In a way, it was another sign of how this is a different season of Braves baseball.
The Braves got tired of watching veteran Trevor Cahill struggle, and with Foltynewicz doing well in four starts for Triple-A Gwinnett, the timing was right. Foltynewicz did not disappoint, with five strong innings on the mound, and he even got a two-run double at the plate to help the Braves win.
Foltynewicz is one of the pieces the Braves acquired in the offseason trades that changed the direction of the franchise. He came from Houston in the Evan Gattis trade, as the Braves got three future pieces for a player that simply no longer fit.
Foltynewicz is a 23-year-old pitcher with a great arm, a fastball in the upper-90s and who has loads of potential. He is not a finished product, but hopefully Foltynewicz will be allowed to take his bumps and bruises this summer as he tries to establish himself as a starting pitcher.
After a 5-0 start, the Braves have settled into what they will likely be this season – a team that will linger around the .500 mark. It will not always be easy, as the Braves will likely have decent stretches when they look pretty good, and then turn around and look awful. That’s the mark of a mediocre team.
The Braves are not going to win the NL East. They may be in the wildcard race for a while, but it won’t last. The talent is just not there, and the roster is just not built for a pennant race. We knew that coming in the season. The hot start may have gotten our hopes up, but we now realize what the Braves are.
It’s a team in transition, and Foltynewicz is part of that. The Braves hope he will be a big part of the rotation for years to come.
Some of you may not be old enough to remember the last time this happened with the Braves. It actually started when Ronald Reagan was still president, in August of 1987.
That’s when the Braves called up a pitcher named Tom Glavine, a young left-hander who looked 14 but was actually 21. Glavine wasn’t completely ready, but the Braves wanted him to get experience in the big leagues, even if it meant he was going to struggle.
And yes, Glavine struggled. The next season Glavine went 7-17 in his first full year in the rotation. His earned run average was 4.56, and Glavine didn’t get much help from his offense.
That was also a season the Braves asked the fans to be patient, to believe in the process and to believe the future would be better. They had a core of young talent to compliment Glavine like John Smoltz, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant and David Justice.
We all know what that group did, and who knows it that amount of success can ever be duplicated. But when those kids came up in the late-1980s, we had to bite the bullet and have a little faith. We had to believe the growing pains they would go through would be worthwhile once they learned how to be big leaguers.
At some point this season, Christian Bethancourt will hopefully get his chance to take over full-time at catcher. We are already seeing young Jace Peterson get a shot at second base, and Jose Peraza could be brought up in the next few months. Matt Wisler could possibly join Foltynewicz in the rotation soon.
And they all may struggle. We may question at times whether they will be good enough to stick. But this is what this season will be about for the Braves – building for the future. We will see great signs, like Friday night, but more often than not we will be asked to have patience that spoiled fans of a winning team are just not used to.
But if the end result, down the road, is positive, it will be well worth it. And like it or not, that’s the process the Braves are in this season.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
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