‘Folty’ keeps it simpler in Grapefruit League debut

Mike Foltynewicz is trying to keep things simpler and smoother with his delivery, and when the Braves pitcher needs a reminder, he views video from a June 30 gem he pitched at Oakland.

That’s the night “Folty” took a no-hitter to the ninth inning before a Matt Olson leadoff homer ended the bid. It was the best game he ever pitched, and he did it with a quick rhythm, something a cleaner delivery he utilized Tuesday in his first Grapefruit League start of the spring will, he hopes, make easier to maintain this season.

Foltynewicz pitched two hitless, scoreless innings in a 3-3 tie against the Pirates, with two walks and no strikeouts.

He walked the first two batters of the second inning before inducing a ground ball from Eric Wood that third baseman Johan Camargo fielded to start a nifty 5-4-3 double play, which featured a quick turn by second baseman Ozzie Albies. Todd Cunningham flied out to end the inning.

“Good to see in the first one (that) you can bear down and get out of it just like that, smooth double play by the infield,” Foltynewicz said, “and just bearing down and get that last out in the inning. It’s something huge that you’ve got to work on and stay consistent during the season, and that was a good first step right there.”

He threw 17 strikes in 31 pitches in his first appearance since becoming a father Feb. 10 when his wife, Brittany, gave birth to their son, Jett. The family is together at spring training and Foltynewicz’s sleep patterns have been a bit disrupted, but he said there was no energy shortage Tuesday.

“There’s time where you’re looking around and you just want to sleep,” he said. “But today was just like any other start day -- you’ve got them nerves, butterflies and jitters just like any other start day. I was up, I had some coffee, got my good ol’ uppers in me, so it was just a normal start day. 

“I talked to Julio (Teheran) about how in your live bullpens (at spring training) you’re throwing 100 percent, and here (in the game) it’s 150 percent. So I think I’ll be feeling it a little bit tomorrow and take care of that, just listen to your arm and body and have a good spring.”

Foltynewicz, 26, is coming off an erratic season in which he went 10-13 with a 4.79 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) before missing the final two weeks with a cut finger. 

He was 9-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 14 starts from May 12 through July 25 – his most impressive run ever -- but was 1-8 with a 7.27 ERA and .307 opponents’ average in his last nine starts, pitching decently in a few losses in that period, but lasting fewer than six innings in six of nine games.

He began to simplify his delivery last summer and went a little further with it this offseason with adjustments to his wind-up that further minimalize the movement in his upper body and shorten his step with his front (left) foot. He’s about as close as possible to pitching from the stretch all the time without actually doing so. 

“It looked different, that’s for sure,” Braves manager Brian  Snitker said. “Overall I thought (Foltynewicz’s start) was pretty good. Breaking ball probably could have been a little better. It’s aways good to get the first one out of the way. I know it’s spring training and everything, but until they get out there and compete, get the juices flowing again, it’s just good to get it out of the way. It’s good.

“He threw a couple of pretty good breaking balls. But he looked healthy, ball’s coming out of his hand good.”

There is barely any wind-up left in Foltynewicz’s delivery with bases empty, and he sounded as if pitching from the stretch all the time is something he might consider, noting that some pitchers recently went that route successfully.

“I’m just trying to keep everything right in line with the catcher,” he said. “It’s following through, staying tall … a bunch of things that I’m trying to put in the back of my head that I’ve been learning over the years, just put them together as a solid pitching mechanic. Not leaning off to the first-base side and getting too crazy with it -- that’s when stuff really starts going bad and you start walking people. You’ve seen it in the last couple of years. 

“So we’re just trying to clean all that up. Nice, smooth tempo. Quick until we get rid of the ball. And I’m happy with the way things are going. I think I’m just going to play with that a little bit more to where I’m comfortable every time.”

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