Mike Foltynewicz is flashing signs of his previous all star form in Texas Rangers camp.
Ahead of his first Cactus League start on Sunday, Foltynewicz had been hitting 94-95 mph consistently with his fastball, even hitting 96 a couple of times in his last live batting practice.
"We'll see how it plays out today, but it was easy," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of Foltynewicz. "There's a lot of physical and mechanical adjustments, using his lower half better, better sequencing with his delivery — a lot of little things. He's definitely trending up."
It played out better than anticipated.
In the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Dodgers, Foltynewicz pitched two perfect innings on 23 pitches, commanding everything he threw at the plate, along with hitting as high as 97 mph on Surprise Stadium's radar gun.
Just to make sure, Foltynewicz double-checked the scoreboard after the first pitch.
"Anyone's lying if they don't look back," Foltynewicz said with a laugh. "With everything I've been though over the last year ... I told a couple guys I could cry right now."
"I think he's gonna get a good night's sleep tonight," Woodward said. "He's been working on this a long time."
The Rangers took a flier on Foltynewicz, signing him to a one-year, $2 million contract this winter, which includes another year of club control. Foltynewicz pitched the previous six seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He was an all-star in 2018, and finished eighth in the National League Cy Young voting that year.
According to Baseball Savant, the average velocity of Foltynewicz's four-seam fastball was 96.3 mph in his all-star 2018 season. His velocity dipped down to 94.8 in 2019, where his numbers regressed closer to his career averages.
However, his velocity plummeted down to 90.9 mph in his only start in 2020. The Braves quickly moved on, designating him for assignment shortly thereafter.
Foltynewicz never had the time to build up his strength throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, which led to the drastic drop in velocity. After the Braves moved on from him, Foltynewicz began building his strength back up, as well as making changes to a number of things on and off the field, including his eating and overall lifestyle.
Both Foltynewicz and the Rangers have worked together to improve his delivery, making it easier to hit the velocity that previously helped make him a better pitcher.
Sunday was just the beginning, but the progress hit its first checkpoint.
"To see those numbers, it's very reassuring," Foltynewicz said. "That tick of confidence goes up a little bit more."
Rangers Roster Moves
Right-handed pitchers Joe Gatto and Tyler Phillips were optioned to Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday. With minor league camp starting later due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, both pitchers will remain in big league camp.
"I think it's just more to kind of set their mind at ease," Woodward said. "Both guys really struggled. We want to take the pressure off them and let them focus on getting better, developing, and improving.
"For both of those guys, I think it will really help them, as opposed to grinding through it, not knowing if they still have a chance. That could be said for a few of our young guys, but we just felt that it was the right time with both of those guys."
Promo photo: Kelly Gavin / Courtesy of the Texas Rangers
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