After a breakout 12-win season in 2018, Sean Newcomb was expected to be a steady middle of the rotation starter for the Atlanta Braves this season. Unfortunately, the lefty was demoted to Triple-A after some early season struggles. He was recalled to the big leagues after making three starts for Gwinnett, and the signs are encouraging after a successful outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. Newcomb now looks rejuvenated and ready to contribute for the Braves again.
Sean Newcomb Encouraging in Bullpen Outing
Late Season Struggles
Newcomb was cruising early last season. His big breakout was a late July start against the Dodgers. He held the highly potent offense hitless through 8.2 innings. In the attempt at a no-hitter, Newcomb threw 134 pitches. However, the extended work seemed to take a toll on him going forward.
After that outing, Newcomb went 2-4 with three no-decisions in nine starts. His ERA during that stretch was 5.77. Did he ever recover from the elevated pitch count against Los Angeles, or was the league starting to figure him out?
2019 Early Season
Despite a bevy of pitching prospects knocking on the door to the big league rotation, Newcomb again opened the season in the starting rotation. His first two starts were solid but unspectacular.
His third start against the New York Mets in mid-April was disastrous. Newcomb did not get out of the second inning. He faced 10 batters, allowing four earned runs surrendering five hits and four more walks. The Braves demoted him after that appearance. Manager Brian Snitker made it clear that consistency was needed for Newcomb to get back to the big leagues. He told Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I told him last night when I sent him out, it’s up to him. He’s going to have to take stock in this and make it happen consistently. We’ve seen what he can do. It’s just consistency.”
Newcomb seemingly took the challenge to heart and regrouped in Gwinnett. In three starts for the Stripers, he went 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA. Just as importantly, he walked only four batters and struck out 15 in 18.2 innings of work. The big league club has shuttled pitchers back and forth from Gwinnett all season so it was just a matter of time before Newcomb got another shot.
After Kevin Gausman was ejected early in Friday’s game with the Miami Marlins, Touki Toussaint was called on to pitch long relief. The short outing for Gausman lined him up for a quick turnaround. He got the start on Monday evening on the road in Los Angeles with Newcomb positioned to pitch out of the bullpen if needed.
Newcomb was called on in the middle innings and pitched well. In two innings of work, he allowed only one hit and did not surrender a run. He did not have the same control issues that had hindered him earlier in the season, and he did not issue any walks while striking out two batters.
"Just going after hitters, challenging them."
Sean Newcomb made his 2019 bullpen debut with two clean innings against the Dodgers. The lefty has not issued a walk in his past 16 innings between the @GoStripers and @Braves. pic.twitter.com/1kln5aEDde
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 7, 2019
With the emergence of Max Fried and Mike Soroka, Newcomb may need to get used to pitching out of the bullpen. As long as he continues to challenge hitters and trust his pitches, he could prove to be a valuable relief asset for the Braves. He would give Atlanta the luxury of having a pitcher capable of filling in for a spot start or throwing several innings of relief. The mental strength to go back to minors and regroup is an encouraging sign for a bullpen in need of positives.
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