Braves' young arms experiencing growing pains

Foltynewicz, Blair, Perez all struggle against Pirates

Braves' young arms experiencing growing pains

PITTSBURGH -- Even though they came to Pittsburgh feeling good about the early results produced by their reconfigured, young starting rotation, the Braves knew they were still bound to continue dealing with some growing pains. They were felt throughout this week's four-game series at PNC Park.

Like Williams Perez and Aaron Blair were earlier this week, Mike Foltynewicz was grounded against the Pirates, lasting just three innings during Thursday night's 8-2 loss. Foltynewicz had shown his tremendous potential in the two starts leading up to this latest outing, which simply provided a reminder that he is a 24-year-old and has made just 19 career starts.

"It's all part of the process," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "I can see what he's capable of. It's just the consistency. A lot of guys have had to go through that. The stuff is coming out good. It's just the command. I think for all young pitchers it's about getting it to go where you want."

The five members of Atlanta's rotation at the beginning of this series had combined to produce a 2.21 ERA over 12 games this month. But despite the fact that staff veteran Julio Teheran tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday's win, the Braves saw their starting pitchers allow 19 earned runs over 18 innings during this four-game set.

Each member of Atlanta's current rotation is 25 years old or younger, and Teheran is the only one who has made more than 30 career starts.

"There's going to be more growing pains," Snitker said. "We'll hang in there with them and keep working with them."

Perez surrendered six earned runs over six innings on Monday, while Blair retired just three of the 14 batters he faced during Tuesday's loss and then was subsequently optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to gain some of the added development he may still need.

When Foltynewicz took the mound on Thursday, he was coming off two dominant starts and attempting to feed off the confidence gained by tossing eight scoreless innings in Kansas City on Saturday. But when he encountered early trouble against the Pirates, he reverted to overthrowing and paid the price, as he allowed five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits (six with two outs) while recording just nine outs.

"We'd rather go up the hill gradually, instead of having two good outings and then a bad one right after that," Foltynewicz said. "We're getting it. It's just a little fine tuning here and there and concentrating in certain situations."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.