Grilli hopes to be ready by Opening Day

Foltynewicz might start season with Triple-A Gwinnett

Grilli hopes to be ready by Opening Day

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Jason Grilli is aiming to be ready for Opening Day, Mike Foltynewicz has accepted the fact that he might have a little longer to begin his regular season. But it would have been hard to deduce this based on what the two Braves pitchers said after throwing in a simulated game at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Friday.

"It felt awesome out there," Foltynewicz said. "It just puts a smile on my face to go out there, be healthy and actually be around the strike zone where I wanted to be with all of my pitches. It was an awesome feeling out there today."

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he is a grizzled veteran who is not going to get overly excited about attempting to simulate game situations on a back field, but it's safe to say Grilli was nowhere near as upbeat after he completed his 20-pitch performance, within which he surrendered home runs to Tyler Flowers and highly-regarded 18-year-old prospect Austin Riley.

"There are some things timing-wise that are off a little bit, but that's baseball activity," Grilli said. "I'm in shape and now it's time to get the rhythm and timing down. ... It's hard to get everything going in 20 pitches. My bullpen felt more in sync and again, it's just more about getting in baseball shape."

With Opening Day still a little more than three weeks away, Grilli will have an opportunity to make adjustments to improve his timing and sharpen his breaking ball. But for now, the 39-year-old reliever can take solace in the fact that he has not had any recent problems with his left Achilles tendon, which he ruptured while covering first base during a July 11 game at Coors Field.

Grilli's season-ending injury

Over the next couple weeks, the Braves will need to determine whether Grilli will be effective enough to realize his goal to open the season as their closer. Arodys Vizcaino would likely fill the role if Grilli is not ready.

"I know when I'm ready," Grilli said. "The first outing, you don't put too much heaviness on that. Things are coming along as I anticipated."

Foltynewicz has certainly been pleased by the way his arm and body have reacted since he spent most of the offseason taking blood thinners and recovering from the blood clot that forced doctors to remove a portion of a right rib in September.

"I'm just being very patient," Foltynewicz said. "I'm listening to them, and it's working out. If I keep being patient, I'll get out there in a game soon enough."

Even if Foltynewicz stays on course, he will likely need to wait until at least the middle of April to begin pitching in regular-season games. The hard-throwing right-hander might start the season with Triple-A Gwinnett, but there is certainly a chance he could eventually join Atlanta's rotation or bullpen.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.