Michael Gary Foltynewicz
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 200 lb.
- High School Minooka Community High School
- Debut August 2, 2014
Mike Foltynewicz was the first high schooler picked from a Midwestern school in the 2010 amateur draft. The right-hander was chosen 19th overall, going to the Houston Astros. He was signed by scout Troy Hoerner for $1.305 million and made his pro debut on June 26th for the Greeneville Astros with a scoreless inning against the Johnson City Cardinals. In 12 starts that first season, he was 0-3, 4.03 but pitched only 44 2/3 innings. He then spent the next two seasons with the Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League. 2011 was not so great, as he was 5-11, 4.97 in 26 starts, logging 134 innings. In 2012, however, he had an excellent season, with a record of 14-4, 3.14 in his 27 starts. He continued to do well in 2013, as he moved quickly through advanced Class A to spend the bulk of the season in AA. With the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League, he was 1-0, 3.81 in 7 games, while with the Corpus Christi Hooks in the Texas League, he went 5-3, 2.87 in 23 games. Overall that year, he pitched 30 times, including 20 starts, with a record of 6-3, 3.06. He had 124 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings.
Foltynewicz reached the major leagues for the first time on August 2, 2014, when he pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief for the Astros against the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent the rest of the season in the majors, making 16 appearances out of the bullpen. His only decision was a loss, which came on September 8th against the Seattle Mariners. He put up an ERA of 5.30 in 18 2/3 innings. He had spent the first four months of the season with the AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks, going 7-7, 5.08 in 21 games, including 18 starts. He was in line for a starting job in the Astros' rotation in 2015, until January 14th, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves along with P Andrew Thurman and 3B Rio Ruiz in return for C Evan Gattis and P James Hoyt.
He recorded his first major league win in his debut for the Braves, which came on May 1, 2015 after having spent the first month of the season in the minors. He defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, pitching five innings and also driving in 2 runs with his first career hit, a double off Anthony DeSclafani in the 4th inning after having given up three runs in the top of the frame. On September 21st, he had surgery to remove part of a rib, as it was blocking a nerve and causing blood clots in his pitching arm. It was a potentially life-threatening condition had it gone undiagnosed longer, as the blood clots could have led to a stroke. When his season ended, he was 4-6, 5.71 in 18 games, including 15 starts, his last appearance coming on August 25th. Alex Cobb had undergone a similar operation a couple of years earlier.
The operation was successful, but it caused him to lose 20 pounds and the recovery put him a couple of weeks behind schedule for the start of the 2016 season as the need to take blood thinners in the wake of the surgery prevented him from exercising at full strength. He was one of the more consistent pitchers for the Braves that season, going 9-5, 4.31 in 22 starts. He missed all of April and almost all of June, but when he was able to take his turn on the mound, he was very solid, and by going 6-1 from July 27th onwards, he was one of the players that gave the Braves a solid second half after a dreadful start to the year. He was back in the starting rotation at the start of 2017 and on June 30th, he came close to pitching a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics, not allowing his first hit until Matt Olson led off the 9th with a homer. It was the first time he had pitched in the 9th inning in a game he had started; Jim Johnson took over after the homer and completed the 3-1 win, allowing another hit. He finished the year at 10-13, 4.79 in 29 games (28 starts), pitching 154 innings and striking out 143 batters.
He took another step forward in 2018, as he was the Braves' best pitcher over the first couple of months of the season just as the team went from being a bottom-dweller in the standings to competing for the NL East division tite on the strength of a group of excellent young players. On June 1st, he pitched his first career complete game and shutout when he defeated the Washington Nationals with a two-hitter, 4-0. He retired 20 consecutive batters at one point and the win put Atlanta one and half games in front of Washington in first place in the division. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time and finished the year at 13-10, 2.85 in 31 starts. His 2 complete games and 1 shutout were both tied for the National League lead, his 183 innings were a personal best, as were his 202 strikeouts. Atlanta won the NL East division title and Mike got to start Game 1 of the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 4th. He allowed 4 runs in 2 innings to be charged with a 6-0 loss, then in Game 4 on October 8th, he allowed just 1 run in 4 innings. The Braves went on to lose that game as well, 6-2, but he was not involved in the decision.
In spring training in 2019, he came down with a sore elbow and as a result missed the start of the season, when he would normally have been designated as the opening day starter for the first time of his career. He made his debut on April 27th, but his season was in marked contrast with his fairytale season the year before, as after 11 starts, his record stood at 2-5, 6.37. With the Braves trying to build a lead in the NL East, they had little choice but to send him down to the minors on June 23rd so that he could find his groove again away from the pressure. In his last start before the demotion on June 22nd, he had given up 8 runs in 4 innings against the Washington Nationals, but had managed to escape with a no-decision as the Braves won, 13-9. He returned on August 6th and pitched better the rest of the way, going 6-1, 2.65 in 10 starts to finish the year at 8-6, 4.54. He started two games in the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was excellent in Game 2 on October 4th, with 7 scoreless innings to receive credit for 3-0 win. He gave up only 3 hits and no walks that day. His other start was a complete disaster however. Given the ball to start Game 5 at home on October 9th, he could only record 1 out, allowing 3 hits and 3 walks, while one batter reached on an error and all seven came in to score in what turned out to be a ten-run 1st inning by the Cards, who cruised to a 13-1 win.
He made his first start of the 2020 season on July 27th, facing the Tampa Bay Rays, and it did not go well as he allowed 6 earned runs on 4 hits including 3 homers and 4 walks in 3 1/3 innings. The Braves were not ready to give him another chance: even before the game ended, he was designated for assignment. The Braves figured he was done because he had inexplicably lost miles on his fastball, which sat around 89-91 mph, whereas it was at 95 mph the previous year, and over 96 mph two years earlier. He spent the rest of the season at the team's alternative training site, then became a free agent. He signed with the Texas Rangers, and even though he did not pitch well in spring training, was given the starting assignment for the Rangers' home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 5th.
- NL All-Star (2018)
- NL Complete Games Leader (2018)
- NL Shutouts Leader (2018)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2018)
- Mark Bowman: "Foltynewicz patient in recovery from blood clot: Braves righty may begin season on DL after dealing with life-threatening issue", mlb.com, February 1, 2016.