Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland has some company as one of the best pitchers in baseball last season to get sent back to the minor leagues in 2019.
Atlanta Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who dominated his way to the All-Star Game in 2018, was optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday morning after giving up eight earned runs over four innings against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
The outing brought Foltynewicz’s ERA up to 6.37 over 11 games this season with a WHIP of 1.416.
It’s been a rough year for Foltynewicz even before his performance became an issue. As one of the frontline starters for Atlanta coming into the season, Foltynewicz suffered an elbow injury in spring training that kept him out of the majors until late April. When he finally returned, it took five outings before he tossed his first quality start while the World Series-contending Braves have gone just 4-7 in games started by Foltynewicz.
From a pure numbers standpoint, Foltynewicz stats from 2018 to 2019 don’t even resemble the same pitcher.
2018: 183 IP, 2.85 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 0.8 HR/9, 68 BB, 1.082 WHIP
2019: 59.1 IP, 6.37 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.4 HR/9, 20 BB, 1.416 WHIP
Braves manager Brian Snitker certainly sounded frustrated by the lack of consistency from Foltynewicz and hinted that it’ll be up to the right-hander to earn his spot back in the rotation.
#Braves Snitker on Foltynewicz being sent to Triple A: “It’s time to push the reset button and get back going. I mean, it wasn’t working here. It’s been a struggle it seems like all year. Nothing ever got going for him... Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) June 23, 2019
It’s a similar tone as Rockies manager Bud Black struck when Freeland was sent back to Triple-A after finishing fourth in Cy Young voting last season.
Since his demotion, Freeland hasn’t exactly seen the improvement Colorado was looking for. The 26-year-old has tossed 16.2 IP with 22 hits, 14 ER, 8 BB and 10 K in his first two starts with Albuquerque. Minor leaguers are slashing .324/.395/.574 against him. Freeland did make a quality start in his last outing, but will need to show consistency in doing so before he gets called back up.
Black called Freeland’s return to form “critical” to the Rockies’ success this season. The same could be said for the Braves and Foltynewicz.
With the signing of Dallas Keuchel, Atlanta was hoping to strengthen its rotation, not have to cover for another deficiency. That being said, the Braves’ situation is much less dire than the Rockies. They’re currently up 5.5 games on second-place Philadelphia in an underwhelming National League East. The Rockies, on the other hand, are 12 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Regardless, it’s staggering to see two of the National League’s top pitchers from 2018 completely fall off this season. A return to form for either would be as enjoyable to their teams as it would be for baseball fans. Whether or not that’s on the table is worth questioning.
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