He followed up his 2.99 ERA in 18 starts with the low-A Charleston RiverDogs a year ago with a 3.03 ERA pitching out of the bullpen for the high-A Tampa Yankees this season, striking out a whopping 88 in just 65.1 innings.
"I feel overall it was a good year," he said. "The beginning of the year was just getting used to coming out of the bullpen since I was a starter for the majority of my life. Once I got over that and found my new routine I felt like I was comfortable in that role, and I feel the results in my second half were just from getting more comfortable in the bullpen role."
Foley had spent just one summer in college pitching out of the bullpen. Other than that, his entire life was spent in the starting rotation, including the majority of his first two professional seasons. However, he says he grew to love his new role by season's end.
"I liked it," he admitted. "I liked coming in high-leverage situations, getting the big outs, and helping the team win a ball game. It's a little different mentality-wise. I like that mentality though, you come in, your adrenaline is pumping and you're trying to harness that to use it the best you can, whether it's coming in for an inning or two or sometimes even more, and just kind of letting it go. I think my mentality plays well into that role."
His stuff played well into his new role too. Primarily more of a two-pitch hurler before the season began, Foley ended the season that way too even though there were some glaring differences. Known for his plus splitter before 2016, it was his slider, a pitch that long had evaded him, that became his weapon of choice by the end of the year.
"Earlier in the year I was more fastball-split, and the split kind of left me for a bit," he revealed. "We tinkered with a slider grip that really helped turn it into a pitch that I can use and that [eventually] turned into my number two pitch behind my fastball. If I was able to get ahead with the fastball I was able to put guys away with that slider. The slider became an out-pitch.
"The split kind of left me about halfway through the year. I tried getting it back but being in the bullpen you don't really need three pitches working for you. You can get away with two and the slider really became a good weapon for me and the fastball stayed pretty consistent."
Unlike many starters turned relievers, Foley's sitting velocity never really jumped. He still sat mostly 92-94 mph, although perhaps his average velocity was closer to 93-94 than 92. But while the fastball didn't necessarily improve in his new role, his breaking ball sure did.
"I increased the velo and I increased the shape," he said of the slider. "The shape got more consistent and more up and down, and not so cutter-ish. It had gotten very cutter-ish so I started tinkering with the grip a bit and I was able to add a couple of ticks to the velocity, and the shape really improved too to where I could get more swings and misses with it."
His slider actually began sitting 86-89 mph in the second half of the season and it became such a reliable weapon that Foley had the luxury of forgetting about his once highly effective splitter.
"Probably in the second half of the year I stopped worrying about that too much. It's not like starting where you have a couple of bullpen sessions to find it so once it became a process of where I was searching for it I kind of backed off of that and focused on making sure my fastball command and slider were always there.
"I didn't throw [the splitter] out the window but it definitely got put on the back-burner. I made sure those were good because I knew I could have success with just those two."
He says he's going to work on rediscovering his splitter again this offseason in the hopes of finding a third go-to dominant pitch. Should that happen he believes the sky is the limit on what he can do in his newest role.
"The first half was a little rough but the second half I really started doing what I thought I was capable of doing. I think I had a lot of success in the second half. I started doing things that I wanted to do once I got comfortable with the routine, getting comfortable with the bullpen life. I feel like I came into my own in the second half.
"I think everyone in baseball wants to have that kind of year where you're so dominant that the organization has no choice but to keep moving you up. It's definitely a goal of mine and a goal of everyone, to have that season where you force the organization's hand to make a move. I'm ready. I'll keep building off of last year and see where it takes me," he concluded.