ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves recalled Mike Foltynewicz from the minor league on Monday, hoping the hard-throwing right-hander can regain the form that made him an All-Star last season.
A roster spot became available when Kevin Gausman was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds.
Foltynewicz was 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 2018 and started two games for the Braves in the playoffs. But he struggled to get past an injury that put him behind schedule during spring training and was demoted to the minors on June 22 after going 2-5 with a 6.37 ERA in 11 starts.
Foltynewicz will start Tuesday night at Minnesota in an interleague matchup of first-place teams.
"With the way Folty has been throwing the ball and talking to the Gwinnett staff, we felt like he was ready to come back and impact us," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "This is performance based. Every game counts. We're into the last two months of the year."
Foltynewicz made 10 starts for the International League team, going 5-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He worked 51 1/3 innings, giving up 49 hits and 17 walks to go along with 45 strikeouts.
"I'm looking forward to getting him back out there," manager Brian Snitker said in Minneapolis before the Braves opened their series against the Twins. "He went back and it looks like every outing has been a little better and his stuff's been good, command, the whole thing. Hopefully, he can provide a spark here."
The Braves have struggled to fill the last spot in their rotation behind Dallas Keuchel, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Julio Teheran. Foltynewicz is one of six other pitchers who have made starts for Atlanta, a group that has combined to go 6-16 with a 6.73 ERA.
Gausman, a 28-year-old right-hander, was acquired from Baltimore at last season's trade deadline and turned in some valuable innings for the Braves as they won the NL East title. He went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts.
But Gausman battled a foot injury this season and was just 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA. After an encouraging performance in his first start coming off the injured list, he was rocked in his final two starts for Atlanta, surrendering 11 earned runs, 17 hits and four homers in 10 2/3 innings.
In an interesting twist, Gausman was claimed by the team that handed him a 7-3 loss Friday, which turned out to be his last appearance with the Braves. The Reds will pick up about $3 million left on his $9.35 million contract this season. He is eligible for arbitration after the season and can become a free agent in 2020.
"We don't win the NL East last year without what Kevin Gausman did for us those last two months, especially when the offense went cold," Anthopoulos said. "We want to thank him for being a huge part of us winning the division last year. But right now, we need to go with the hot hand."
The Reds plan to use Gausman in long relief, though he could move into a more prominent bullpen role if he has success.
"He's still a young pitcher," Cincinnati manager David Bell said. "We think as an organization that there's even more upside there. We were all very excited about claiming him."
Anthopoulos refused to commit to Foltynewicz for the rest of the season, saying he's focused only on his next start. Youngsters Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson have struggled in brief stints with Atlanta, but they could be recalled from Gwinnett if needed.
The team also has promoted perhaps its top pitching prospect, 21-year-old Ian Anderson, to Triple-A after he went 7-5 with a 2.68 ERA at Double-A Mississippi.
But Foltynewicz is the top option for now and certainly too young to give up on at age 27.
"The main issue with him getting hit was the location of his fastball," Anthopoulos said. "The results (at Gwinnett) speak for themselves. He was performing well. I don't know how it's going to translate at the big league level, so we're going to see. But overall, his performances from looking at the box scores, talking to the staff ... they were pretty unanimous that he's the next guy up."
There was some speculation that Gausman might be moved to the bullpen, but the Braves brought in three new relievers at last week's trade deadline, leaving Sean Newcomb as the only reliever with minor league options.
Newcomb, one of two left-handers in the bullpen, is 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA and one save, so the Braves had no intention of sending him down.
"We did not feel that made sense for us, the way we're constructed as team right now," Anthopoulos said. "This move gave us the greatest flexibility with our roster going forward. More specifically, it gives Folty an opportunity to come back and hopefully be a boost for us."
Associated Press freelance writers Brian Hall in Minneapolis and Mark Schmetzer in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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