Sean Newcomb was demoted after going an inning and a third against the Mets on April 13th. In three starts, with the Atlanta Braves, Newcomb pitched 12 innings and gave up 8 walks in that time. The walks are a problem that has plagued Newcomb his entire big league career. That is why he found himself in the minors after a slow start to the season. Well, Newcomb has made three starts since going down, but it’s the last two that have fans and the team excited for the prospect of his return.
In Newcomb’s first start, with the Gwinnett Stripers, it was much of the same. In 5.2 innings, Newcomb walked four and struck out five, while also giving up 2 earned runs in the start. It was the same control issues that Newcomb was having a hard time overcoming when he was with the big league squad. Newcomb can be a high number of strikeouts guy, but he can also bury himself early by filling up the bases and running up his pitch count. Until Newcomb can get his control issue under control, there wouldn’t be a place for him with the Atlanta Braves.
However, the next start was when Newcomb and the Braves started to see a little progress. In his next start, Newcomb went 7 innings with no walks. Newcomb surrendered 6 hits and posted 7 strikeouts in that start. It was an efficient start for Newcomb, who had to throw 88 pitches to get through his 7 innings. This is the kind of start the Braves have been pining to see on a consistent basis. But this is also the kind of start(s) that Newcomb hasn’t been able to string together, and this is why he finds himself in the minors.
Newcomb, making his third start with the AAA Stripers, on Monday night was more of what the Braves have wanted to see. Newcomb needed 90 pitches to go 6 innings. It was another high pitch count that Newcomb can find himself grappling with more often than he likes, but what was different about this performance was the lack of walks. In 6 innings, Newcomb was able to not give up a single walk. Another start with no walks have Newcomb working his way back up to the Braves faster than some of us fans would have expected.
Newcomb not walking a batter for two starts is significant. In 2018, in 31 starts, Newcomb only had two starts where he did not walk a single batter. It’s not likely Newcomb will come back to the majors a new man, but it is possible he’s learning how to pitch instead of just throwing. Newcomb has an immense amount of talent, we saw this on full display last season when Newcomb was one batter away from tossing a no-hitter against the World Series bound, Dodgers. Newcomb might be the most talented pitcher in the Braves organization, but until he can get his control issues to fix, he won’t be the pitcher we all know he can be. With the last two starts, in Gwinnett, Newcomb looks like he’s starting to figure out how to become that guy on a regular basis.