LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Foltynewicz certainly found an odd way to begin his bid to secure the final spot in the Braves' rotation. In fact, he might never experience another inning that evolves quite like the first completed this season.
Making his Grapefruit League season debut in the Braves' 2-0 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex, Foltynewicz faced the minimum in the first inning, despite allowing two hits and issuing a walk. He escaped damage courtesy of two pickoffs, including one that led to two outs.
"You're laughing and just thinking to yourself, 'How lucky,'" Foltynewicz said. "That could have been a breakout inning for them."
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Magneuris Sierra began the game with a single, and then he was picked off first. Kolten Wong followed with a single and advanced to second base when Stephen Piscotty walked. Foltynewicz's double look fooled Wong, who was retired during a rundown between second and third. After tagging Wong, Rio Ruiz fired to first to retire Piscotty, who had strayed too far from the base.
"I didn't get the outs the normal way -- I just had to get them the hard way," Foltynewicz said. "That's baseball."
Foltynewicz produced a pair of groundouts and a strikeout during a perfect second inning that completed his effort. The 25-year-old right-hander struggled to find a feel for his slider, but he was happy with both his curveball and changeup.
Though Foltynewicz is the clear favorite to fill the final spot in Atlanta's rotation, he understands and appreciates the fact the Braves have said he is competing for the spot with Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair.
"I knew coming in, that wasn't going to be handed to me," Foltynewicz said. "I just want to go out there and work my butt off like I do every year."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.