After rib injury, Folty rounding back into form

Opening Day still in question for righty, who gave up one run Tuesday

After rib injury, Folty rounding back into form

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Although Mike Foltynewicz says he wants to focus on proving he is completely healthy before he turns his attention to competing for a spot in the Braves' rotation, his outing during Tuesday's 8-7 loss to the Astros established him as a strong candidate for one of the remaining spots.

Against an Astros lineup that looked similar to what they could use Opening Day, Foltynewicz was charged with one run on two hits in 3 2/3 innings with a walk and five strikeouts.

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"[Foltynewicz] really threw it good," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "All his pitches, his changeup and his two-seamer, he was really impressive. The ball looked like it had a little extra giddy-up in the strike zone. ... It was everything you wanted to see and more, really, for his second outing in the spring."

It was Foltynewicz's second outing of the spring and his second since his season ended suddenly last September, when doctors needed to remove a portion of a rib after detecting a blood clot. He spent most of this offseason on blood thinners and came to Spring Training behind schedule. After the surgery, Foltynewicz lost 20 pounds to drop to about 205, which he says is closer to his weight when Houston traded him to Atlanta before the 2015 season.

Foltynewicz spent all morning thinking about which members of his former team, who drafted him in the first round in 2010, would be in the starting lineup Tuesday. So he was pleasantly surprised when he saw most of the Astros' presumptive starting lineup and pleased with the results.

"That's a group right there that they threw out for me today, so I'm glad I pitched the way I did," he said. "Confidence going into my next game is that much higher."

It is still unclear whether Foltynewicz will be ready for Opening Day; however, Atlanta does not need a fifth starter until April 12. While the Braves will continue to monitor Foltynewicz's health, Gonzalez said the club is now focused on getting him prepared to start the season. If he continues to pitch on regular rest, Foltynewicz could make as many as three more starts before Atlanta needs a No. 5 starter.

"I really can't worry about it right now," Foltynewicz said. "I don't want to try to take it into high gear and go 100 percent all the time, just because I don't want to have a setback. This is a pretty serious injury, and who knows what can happen with it? But everything feels good right now.

"I'm just going to concentrate on going out there every fifth day, and if they think something can happen down in Atlanta around that time, I'll try to be ready for that."

Manny Banuelos, who is also competing for a spot in Atlanta's rotation, struggled through 1 2/3 innings Tuesday, surrendering five runs on five hits.

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.