Long ball hurts Newcomb in second spring start

Sean Newcomb was tagged with back-to-back home runs in his second start of the spring.

After throwing a scoreless inning against Houston on Saturday, Newcomb went two frames against the Tigers on Thursday in Lakeland, Florida. 

He pitched a perfect first inning, retiring three Tigers on ground balls. Right fielder Nick Castellanos and designated hitter Victor Martinez took him deep to open the second.

Newcomb settled in with a fly out sandwiched between two strikeouts to finish the outing. His control was up-and-down, but he didn’t issue a walk.

“Just really early in spring still,” Newcomb said. “Just fastballs that didn’t have life on them or one of them, to Castellanos, I just didn’t get it in quite as much as I wanted to. Martinez took a 3-2 in-fastball … didn’t have the life it should’ve.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker was satified with Newcomb’s 38-pitch afternoon, especially with his confidence.

“He had the one homer to Castellanos, Zuke (catcher Kurt Suzuki) was saying it was a borderline ball,” Snitker said. “He was amazed at how he got to it. If you break it down, I liked his fastball. He threw some really good breaking balls and some really good change-ups. So again, he’s not a finished product. He’s far better today than he was a year ago today.

“He’s coming. You break down the three pitches he had today, individually, he was pretty good.”

Joker Marchant Stadium is known for oft-windy conditions, but Newcomb wasn’t sure to what degree that affected the homers.

“I feel good,” he said. “I was able to get the change-up in there good. The fastball felt good. I was commanding it well. Faced the minimum besides those two guys. But like I said, it feels good. Just early, so I don’t have my life on everything.”

Across 19 starts and 100 innings, Newcomb allowed 10 home runs. He gave up seven homers in his last 197 2/3 innings in Double-A and Triple-A.

“I’m aggressive with my fastball, so sometimes I think it’s hard to get up in the air,” he said.

After a rookie season checked by moments of brilliance and inconsistency, Newcomb didn’t arrive in Florida promised a spot in the rotation. He’s fine with that; the competition keeps the intensity up among him and his young peers. 

But Newcomb was a fixture in last season’s rotation from June onward. The way he sees it, he’s in the rotation until he’s not.

“For me, I look at it as, that was my spot last year. Coming into this spring, it’s my spot to lose essentially. So I just go out there like that’s the case. Go out and do what I have to do.”

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