Michael Foltynewicz had an early wake-up call to join his new Corpus Christi teammates after learning of his promotion to Double-A from Class A Advanced Lancaster late last week.
"I had to get up at four in the morning to get here, but it was just a two-hour ride," he said of arriving in Corpus Christi and then joining his teammates in San Antonio. "Getting the call-up was pretty exciting. I know how hard I competed in Lancaster, and I wanted to continue how well I played in Spring Training."
Foltynewicz had a couple of days to take measure of his first Texas League opponents and get comfortable with his teammates, and it showed. He struck out nine over five innings and fellow Houston Astros prospect George Springer slugged his Minor League-leading 11th home run as Corpus Christi blanked San Antonio, 3-0, on Monday afternoon.
Foltynewicz held the Missions to a hit and a walk while throwing 53 of his 76 pitches for strikes in the no-decision. David Martinez followed him with 3 1/3 scoreless frames to improve to 4-0 before Alex Sogard retired the final two batters for his third save.
"They were first-pitch hackers," Foltynewicz said. "We kind of realized that in the first couple of games. I wanted to use my offspeed pitches early in the count to get them off the fastball, and then use the fastball later in the count. It was probably my best fastball command I've had all year."
Foltynewicz, 21, struck out the first Double-A batter he faced, Reymond Fuentes, and then picked off Rico Noel after walking him with one out. He struck out two in the second, third and fourth innings before pitching around a leadoff single by Cody Decker and a wild pitch in the fifth.
The Astros' first-round pick in 2010 said he mainly relied on his fastball and slider, throwing only a few other offspeed pitches.
"I only threw the curveball twice today," he said. "I only threw one changeup. The slider was working really well."
Foltynewicz, who's fastball in the 93-99 mph range, said he used a mixture of high heat and balls in the dirt to yield his best strikeout total since he K'd 10 on Aug. 21, 2012 with Class A Lexington.
"Half of [the strikeouts] were on high strikes and half were sliders in the dirt or sliders away," he said. "I mixed my pitches up well today."
Foltynewicz, for all his success, couldn't earn the win as San Antonio starter Donn Roach matched him for much of the afternoon. Roach, the Angels' third-round pick in 2010, who was traded to the Padres last summer, held the Hooks to three hits and two walks over six innings while striking out five. San Diego's No. 15 prospect threw 85 pitches and also did not factor into the decision.
Springer, the Astros' top outfield prospect, finally broke the scoreless tie with his Minor League-leading 11th home run in the eighth inning, a two-run drive to left off Matt Stites (1-1). Domingo Santana followed with his fourth homer in the next at-bat to make it a three-run cushion.
"I heard it," Foltynewicz said of Springer's blast. "I think it hit off the top of the light post and came straight down."
Springer is batting .288 with 11 homers, 27 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 31 games this season. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 Draft out of UConn was an MiLB.com Organization All-Star in 2012 after hitting .302 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs at two levels. This year, he's batting .300 in his last 10 games and .400 against left-handed pitching.
For Foltynewicz, the experience, despite a lack of a win and the hard travel to get from San Bernadino (where the Lancaster JetHawks were playing) to San Antonio, is one he'll remember after going 1-0 with a 3.81 ERA in seven games for Class A Advanced Lancaster.
"It's awesome," he said. "I've watched about four games so far, and it's exciting to watch these guys play. I was on the edge of my seat all the time, either in the stands or in the dugout. These guys are awesome -- they can hit the ball."
His growth on the mound after spending two years at Class A Lexington is partly why Houston bumped him up two levels already this year.
"I started my first year in Lexington and I didn't know how to pitch," he saud. "The next year I learned how to pitch and located the fastball a lot better at instructs. And in the offseason. I really got my confidence back. The second year in Lexington was huge for me."