LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One year after heading to Spring Training burdened with the expectations that come with being a top pitching prospect, Mike Foltynewicz has returned to Braves camp comforted by the fact that the club has his best long-term interests in mind as he nears the completion of a long rehab.
Surrounded by some of his teammates who were completing their regular early Spring Training bullpen work on Sunday morning at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, Foltynewicz was thrilled just to take another step toward a full recovery courtesy of the completion of a somewhat controlled 15-pitch mound session.
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As Foltynewicz walked away from the mound, he fist bumped a few coaches and trainers and flashed a bright smile before taking time to speak to former Braves manager Bobby Cox, who had been watching from a nearby golf cart.
"My arm feels great right now," Foltynewicz said. "I don't know if it's the adrenaline being in front of everybody out there. But it feels good. That's all I care about."
Foltynewicz has not been considered a candidate for the Opening Day roster because of all that he has endured since having a portion of his rib removed from behind his right shoulder after a blood clot was found in September. The lingering effects of this scary experience led him to spend nearly three months on blood thinners, which consequently limited his physical activity during the offseason.
Since being cleared to begin his throwing program with some rainbow tosses to his father on Christmas Day, Foltynewicz has made steady progress. He worked out regularly at Turner Field during the weeks leading up to Spring Training and is reaching a point in his rehab where he's completing what feels more like normal preparations.
"I haven't mentioned him as a rotation candidate because I don't want him to think that he has to be the fourth or fifth starter on Opening Day," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I just want him to get ready. If we have to ramp him up, we'll ramp him up. But he hasn't pitched since the end of August."
While there is a chance Foltynewicz might be healthy enough to join the rotation or bullpen by the end of April, Gonzalez and the Braves' medical staff have made sure that the young right-hander understands that there is no need for him to make any attempt to rush through the process of recovery.
"That's nice to hear from them because they haven't forgotten about me," Foltynewicz said. "It's fun just to take my time. I don't have to rush back and [can] do it the right way, instead of adding another injury and wasting another half of a year of rehabbing. I'm just excited to get back out there."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.