Braves

Braves: Mike Foltynewicz’s start sparks even more concern

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We saw the Braves finally pull the plug on Kevin Gausman yesterday after his third dismal outing in a row. He’s now on the 10-day Injured List with plantar fasciitis, and you have every right to be skeptical about how legit that injury is. The truth of the matter is Gausman could no longer be trusted at the MLB level in any capacity, and he might not be alone.

Last year’s Ace, Mike Foltynewicz, has not been able to put it together since coming back from injury in late April. He’s toting a gaudy ERA of above six and allowing 2.7 home runs per nine innings. The slider hasn’t been cutting with consistency, and his fastball velocity is erratic. It is reaching the point to where Folty is either injured or his 2018 was a fluke. Neither is what the Braves want to hear, but the way he shakes his arm out after every three pitches doesn’t leave a pleasant feeling in my stomach.

Dallas Keuchel is set to make his second start as a Brave in Mississippi. The former Cy Young award winner made mincemeat of the youngsters in Rome and has told Alex Anthopoulos he feels in midseason form. The Braves hope after another promising start on Saturday that Keuchel will be prepared to make his debut on June 21st.

It’s assumed Keuchel will be taking over Gausman’s spot in the rotation; which he will, but he might not be the only new face to join the group. Sean Newcomb is starting in Gausman’s spot on Saturday against the Phillies, and he’s as hot as any pitcher on the roster.

The southpaw that was once among the Braves top prospects regained his control in AAA, earning his way back to Atlanta but in a relief role. He’s appeared in 16 games since and only allowed three earned runs, dropping his ERA to 2.59 on the year. Brian Snitker has chosen to use him in every situation possible out of the pen – including as a closer. Newcomb looks comfortable in relief, and it may be where he is at his best, but the Braves front office knows his value lies as a starter.

Atlanta did not give up Andrelton Simmons straight up for a potential reliever. They traded him in hopes Newcomb would turn into a Jon Lester-esque lefty ace. In stints, Newk has given us glimpses of that upside – like when he came an out away of no-hitting a potent Dodgers lineup – but he fell off a cliff in the second half of last year and into 2019. The Braves could keep him in the bullpen, and with their limited options that might be what is best for now, but we’ve seen how the relief experiment has jumpstarted some of the Braves young arms. Newcomb has the potential to be every bit as electric as Max Fried as long as he throws strikes.

So when Newcomb makes his start on Saturday for first place against the Phillies, I believe it will be an audition for a permanent starting role. Mike Foltynewicz is on the same track as Kevin Gausman, and I’m not sure how much longer they can keep sending him out there every five days. Perhaps Folty’s power arm will be better suited in the bullpen, maybe he needs some time to figure things out in Gwinnett, or possibly he’s battling a much more severe arm injury than the Braves are acknowledging. Whatever it is – Sean Newcomb will have his first opportunity in a couple of months to prove he belongs in the rotation again.

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