NORTH PORT, Fla. -- There are a thousand tasks this spring of greater importance to Mike Foltynewicz than putting trolls in their place. He knows this, surely. What a colossal waste of time and energy it is to swim in the shallow end of social media.
If the need arises ...
"That's the world we live in. I (sometimes) give it back to them," said the Braves starter who, as the face of last season's National League Division Series implosion against St. Louis and the possessor of a career as erratic as a squirrel caught in traffic, can be subject to a most colorful bouquet of Twitter and Instagram comments.
Why acknowledge the noise at all -- like the one time early last season Foltynewicz suggested a couple of his detractors were "ignorant morons."
"Oh, yeah, you have to. If they came up and said it to my face, I'd give it right back to them," he said. "If they say it on social media, I'll be somewhat nicer about it."
Beyond learning Folty's keys to social-media management, the beginning of this spring camp was a time to assess the Braves starter for scars and traumatic stress. After all, his last time on the mound was a John Carpenter movie thinly disguised as a playoff game.
Starting the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS against St. Louis, Foltynewicz walked the leadoff guy and, well, that was the highlight. The Cardinals gave him an out on a sacrifice bunt, and he would get no other before he was lifted after eight batters.
There certainly were other issues in what became a 10-run first-inning avalanche -- most glaringly a misplayed ball by Freddie Freeman that gave the inning a real downward tilt. But Foltynewicz is the most convenient target. As a hard-thrower who in the period of a year went from the All-Star game (2018) to lost and demoted to Triple-A, to recalled and renewed in the second half of 2019, that's kind of his lot. Nobody knows quite what to make of him, so the default position is ridicule.
How much the Braves might need the good Folty in their rotation was highlighted Wednesday when the reports of Cole Hamels' shoulder soreness hit the fan.