So much for being patient with young pitchers. The Braves optioned starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz to Triple-A Gwinnett Wednesday after he started June with three bad starts.
Foltynewicz had allowed 14 earned runs in his last three starts. He had given up 29 hits in 15.2 innings, with just four walks but only 10 strikeouts.
This was a stark contrast to his first six starts with Atlanta, all in the month of May. He had a 3-2 record and a 3.96 ERA, with 35 hits allowed in 36.1 innings pitched, 13 walks and 38 strikeouts.
The fact that Folty's strikeout numbers are down in June compared to May may be the most alarming stat. But was it really necessary to send him to Triple-A? Is this what he needs for his confidence? What if his replacement does so well that Folty doesn't make another start in Atlanta this season?
The Braves could afford to allow Foltynewicz to work out whatever issues he may have in the last three games in Atlanta. Okay, so you want to win games. But this is just like the 1988 season when the team allowed Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to learn on the job and improve. Sure, the 2015 Braves are a lot better than the 1988 Braves, but this is still a transition season for this franchise.
Glavine had a rough stretch in May of 1988. He allowed 21 earned runs in only 9.2 innings in four starts. The Braves didn't demote Glavine. Instead, they fired manager Chuck Tanner, who was criticized for his handling of the young arms in the Atlanta rotation.
Foltynewicz is just like any other young pitcher. He is going to have his ups and downs as a rookie. He had two very good starts to end the month of May, as he allowed just three earned runs on eight hits in 14.1 innings. So then he turns around and struggles in three games and the Braves demote him?
This seems like a panic move. Foltynewicz is a very good young arm, with tremendous stuff. Pitching coaches rave about his potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. So does this demotion simply give him a chance to get on track, or will it damage his psyche and make him wonder what the Braves think of him for the long-term.
The other odd part of this is that it is likely Matt Wisler will be promoted to replace Foltynewicz. Wisler was the main prize from the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade the day before the season started. Wisler is scheduled to start Friday for Gwinnett, but he may be making his big league debut at Turner Field instead.
The Braves seemed content with leaving Wisler alone in Triple-A for most of this season. He is still just 22 years old, and even though he now has 34 starts in Triple-A Wisler is still having his ups and downs. Wisler was great in May (1.78 ERA in six games, with six walks and 26 strikeouts in 35.1 innings), but Wisler gave up seven runs in his last start last Friday.
Could the Braves be tempted to try Foltynewicz in the bullpen in Gwinnett, to possibly groom him for a role in the Atlanta bullpen? Well, if the team decides to trade Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson before the trade deadline, they would need someone to take over as closer. It's just a thought. Foltynewicz has the stuff to be a starting pitcher, once he harnesses the command of his fastball. But with no heir apparent to the closer's role, you have to have Foltynewicz in the conversation moving forward.
His progress in Gwinnett will be watched closely, as the Braves will likely want Foltynewicz to get back in the rotation at some point later this season.
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Braves send Foltynewicz to Gwinnett
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