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Off restraints, Foltynewicz free to throw
Astros prospect fires eight shutout innings for Corpus Christi
07/25/2013 12:20 AM ET
Michael Foltynewicz has 106 strikeouts in 102 innings this year.
Michael Foltynewicz has 106 strikeouts in 102 innings this year. (Corpus Christi Hooks)

Astros right-hander Mike Foltynewicz didn't exactly struggle during the piggyback era in Corpus Christi, but he's certainly not sad to see it go.

For most of his baseball career, the 21-year-old pitched every fifth day like clockwork. Now back on that schedule, he's looking to thrive in the second half of the season.

Foltynewicz (5-1) scattered six hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight batters over a season-high eight innings in the Double-A Hooks' 5-0 win over the visiting San Antonio Missions.

"I think my performance was the best of my career," said Foltynewicz, selected 19th overall in the 2010 Draft. "I just felt good out there and let all my pitches fly. All of my pitches were working -- my fastball, slider and changeup. I just threw them over the middle of the plate and let them try to hit it."

Houston's No. 7 prospect used an inning-ending double play to work around a couple base hits in the first inning, and he stranded two runners in scoring position in the fourth. He left another two runners on base in the sixth, and he escaped unharmed in the final two innings despite allowing singles in each.

"I just let them hit it on the ground," he said of pitching out of the stretch. "I pitched down in the zone and tried to get them to hit into double plays.

"That [fourth inning] was big. We like to talk about the shutdown inning, but we've not had success with that the last couple games. I beared down and threw strikes. I had good command of my fastball that inning and I got [Robert Kral] to pop up a changeup because he was out in front. It was a big-time pitch."

His eight innings were two innings more than he had gone in any start this year. The reason for the short leash can be traced back to the Astros piggyback system -- the concept of alternating a pair of pitchers between the rotation and bullpen.

The Houston organization had employed the system with all its affiliates from the start of the year, limiting starters to five innings or around 75 pitches, whichever came first.

That idea was shelved once the second half began, seemingly after the Astros determined which pitchers were more suited to the rotation and who should get the majority of their innings in relief.

"That has been over since the All-Star break," said Foltynewicz, who threw a season-high 109 pitches and hit 100 mph in the eighth. "We went to a six-man [rotation] and that gives us a nice rest between starts. We were going on three days' rest before and that started to take a toll on some of the guys, myself included.

"It's not a natural arm motion, to throw every three days. So this is a big relief, it makes a big difference. When we were piggybacking, we couldn't get a good side session in between because you would have to go again two days later. Now we can long-toss after that second day."

On Wednesday, Missions starter Juan Oramas (0-2) surrendered four runs -- two earned -- on four hits and two walks over 3 1/3 innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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